2020 - The COVID-19 Pandemic Brings New Challenges

In mid-March 2020, we suspended in-person programming to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and comply with government mandates. ABPD staff stayed in daily contact with the women health promoters and other community leaders to provide education on COVID-19, advice, and assess needs for support. This support was initially via cell phone, but in addition, staff began preparing video recordings of training and educational videos that could be distributed to the communities on computer tablets. The tablets were purchased and eventually placed in the communities by June 2020. These “virtual training” videos allowed education, empowerment and leadership training to continue, even though ABPD staff could not be in the communities.

Beginning at the end of April 2020, 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 2020, our local ABPD staff completed a larger survey of families in our ten 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 2020, 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.

Starting in August 2020, 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 2020, we began in-person, socially-distanced training with small groups of women as well as the men’s program.

At the same time we engaged community members in developing guidelines addressing COVID-19 prevention and treatment of mild cases. These have been distributed in our partner communities, and were made available to other organizations.

Since late 2020, ABPD has been able to re-initiate most components of the integrated program in our partner communities, while maintaining social distancing and following public health guidelines. Fortunately there have been very few documented cases of COVID-19 in the rural communities — most cases in Guatemala have been in the cities. The next step is a vaccination program.

Looking forward in 2021 and beyond: There’s still “lots to do,” just as Doc declared decades ago. So we continue, confronting everyday challenges and those more serious, such as disaster relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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