As confirmed COVID-19 cases increase in Guatemala, ALDEA and our sister organization ABPD are doing our best to continue our grassroots development work while also responding to growing emergency needs in our partner communities.
In mid-March, we suspended in-person programming with our partner communities to help stop the spread of the coronavirus and comply with government mandates. Travel remains restricted in the Chimaltenango area, our local ABPD office is closed, and staff are primarily working from home. They reach out to community leaders and health promotors regularly by phone and are working continuously to assess their needs and provide support.
At the end of April, we delivered more than 6,000 masks and several gallons of hand sanitizer to our current partner communities in Tecpán and Comalapa to help them comply with government orders and minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus. We also distributed family planning methods, prenatal and children’s vitamins, and treatments for pediatric diarrhea. In one community that does not yet have a water system, rain barrels were going dry and they could not wash their hands as recommended, so we committed to trucking in water until the rainy season starts in a few weeks. 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 focuses 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.
We also recognize and are working to address critical needs for mental health support. ABPD staff are expanding alternative ways to implement our regular training programs through resources like tablets and internet hotspots. And since COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Guatemala and beginning to surface in these rural villages, we are working with local leaders to develop and distribute a guide for community members to ensure they know how to take care of mild to moderate cases at home while keeping the disease from spreading.
On July 26, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei announced that the country would begin reopening, though COVID-19 cases are still on the rise. Starting in August, the ABPD staff began to resume work on water and sanitation projects with strict safety protocols in place. The health and safety of our partners and staff remains a top priority, and we will continue working closely with local leaders and surveying families to determine the best way forward. You can find a more detailed description of our COVID-19 response, along with community member perspectives, in our Summer 2020 Newsletter.
Thank you to those generous donors who have stepped up recently to make this response to our partners’ critical emergency needs possible. Please consider making a gift to help us support our partners through this crisis.