As our partners in Guatemala face many challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, ALDEA and our partner organization ABPD are doing our best to safely continue our grassroots development work while also responding to COVID-related needs in our partner communities.
Updated January 19, 2022
It has become clear that unfortunately, we will have to continue contending with varying levels of COVID-19 risks in the months, if not years, ahead. With the expertise and oversight of our ALDEA and ABPD boards, as well as input from community members, the ABPD staff have found creative ways to implement infrastructure and nutrition projects and provide as much of our training curriculum as possible without sacrificing the safety of staff and community members.
To allow construction of water systems to move forward safely, our partner organization in Guatemala, ABPD, is hiring machinery operators to do work that was previously carried out by large groups of community members working in close proximity. ABPD now requires masons building stoves, latrines, and gray water filters to be vaccinated and to reside in the same community where they are working, and families will not be present while this work is being done in their homes. Families continue to make a financial contribution to ensure their ownership of the water and sanitation projects. Trainings in nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and community empowerment are held outdoors in groups of 10 or fewer participants. Communities have also agreed to provide a volunteer to ensure compliance with our agreements regarding masking, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces, and other precautions. Staff will continue to evaluate risks on a community level, case-by-case basis and modify their work accordingly. We have adopted a policy of no official ALDEA travel to Guatemala and no visitors to ABPD until further notice.
From October 2020 through June 2021, low case numbers and eased restrictions in Guatemala allowed ALDEA’s partner organization ABPD to conduct our full range of regular in-person development work. With safety protocols in place, they worked with socially distanced groups of 10 or fewer participants, putting in extra hours to train a higher number of smaller groups.
Unfortunately, by the end of June a new delta-variant fueled wave of cases had begun in Guatemala, including the rural villages where we work, and we made the difficult decision to suspend most of our in-person programming to help keep our staff and community partners safe until the wave of new cases subsided in mid-November.
When the pandemic hit Guatemala in mid-March of 2020, 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.
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.
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.