Update: July 13, 2021
While many in the U.S. are seeing COVID risks diminish, case numbers in Guatemala are on the rise. The country’s vaccine rollout has faced numerous problems and delays, and right now fewer than 5% of Guatemala’s approximately 17 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine and fewer than 1% are fully vaccinated. Reports from the ground suggest the disease is significantly more widespread than the number of confirmed cases—including in our rural partner villages. We at ALDEA and our partners at ABPD in Guatemala are very concerned about this situation, and we are taking new measures to help keep our staff and community partners safe.
We have decided to suspend programming in our partner communities until our staff have been vaccinated, with the exception that we will finish vital water and sanitation projects currently underway in two villages. These will be finished under very strict protocols. Some of our staff have been able to receive a first vaccine dose, but the overall outlook for when more vaccines will be available to them is still unclear. We are also preparing for the possibility that the municipalities where we work will lock down again completely, as they did last year. Whenever we are able to return to the field with vaccinated staff, we will do so with very strict protocols in place, and this may mean some elements of our program are modified or delayed. We will continue working to educate community members and local leaders about preventing COVID transmission (including isolation of exposed/symptomatic people) and treating mild to moderate cases at home.
Finally, to ensure we are not contributing in any way to increased COVID risks, we have adopted a policy of no official ALDEA travel to Guatemala and no visitors to ABPD. This will be in effect until further notice, and we can only hope the situation improves soon.
As our partners in Guatemala face many challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, ALDEA and our sister organization ABPD are doing our best to safely continue our grassroots development work while also responding to emergency needs in our partner communities.
In mid-March, we suspended in-person programming to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and comply with government mandates. Staff focused on professional development training, recording and distributing video trainings via tablets, and staying in daily contact with women serving as promotors and other community leaders to provide advice and assess needs for support.
Beginning at the end of April, we delivered more than 12,000 masks and 95 gallons of hand sanitizer to our partner communities in Tecpán and Comalapa to help them comply with government orders and minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus. We also continued regular distribution of family planning methods, prenatal and children’s vitamins, and treatments for pediatric diarrhea. In communities that did not yet have a water system, we trucked in water during the dry season so they could wash their hands. Another community lost their vital family gardens to a hail storm, so we provided new seedlings.
In late May, our local ABPD staff completed a larger survey of families in our nine current partner communities. The results showed a critical need for support based on widespread loss of income, isolation due to lockdown measures, and rising food prices. This second phase of our response focused on food distribution for those of our partners who are going hungry. In late June, we provided a month’s supply of corn, beans, and oil to more than 400 of our hardest-hit families, starting with a pilot distribution in the highest-need community and expanding from there. We also provided personal hygiene items, inputs for vital corn and bean crops that people are unable to procure on their own, and seeds for family gardens. Our second round of emergency food and hygiene aid went out to 550 families during the first week of August. Providing this level of emergency resources is a significant commitment made possible by the generosity of our donors. You can find a more detailed description of our COVID-19 emergency response, along with community member perspectives, in our Summer 2020 Newsletter.
Starting in August, as Guatemala began to re-open, the ABPD staff began to resume work on water and sanitation projects with strict safety protocols in place. In October, we began in-person, socially-distanced trainings with small groups of women serving as health promotors and men. We also engaged community members in developing a series of printed guides addressing COVID-19 prevention and treatment of mild cases. These have been distributed throughout our partner communities, and we’ve made them available to many other local organizations as well (click the title to download each PDF):
Thank you to those generous donors who have stepped up recently to make it possible for us to respond to our partners’ emergency needs and to make up for lost time as we get back to work. Please consider making a gift to help us continue supporting our partners through this crisis.