Aide packages being dispensed
Along with the rest of the world, our health priorities as an organization have changed dramatically in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. At Alianza Arkana, we have shifted our activities to cater to the immediate needs of our partner communities and allies and as a result, our usual Intercultural Health activities have been put on hold.
Quarantine guidelines in Peru have been extremely strict since the beginning of March, and the penalties for breaking them have sometimes been harsh and punitive here in the department of Ucayali. For more than three months, men and women have only been allowed to leave their houses on separate days to perform vital tasks, such as buying food and medicine. All travel has been shut down, with the exception of food transport to and from major cities. Our local hospital has also been closed intermittently, as healthcare workers have no access to personal protective equipment, and hospitals do not have essential equipment such as ventilators nor appropriate medicine to handle COVID-19-related cases.
Our staff based in Yarinacocha has been working tirelessly to support our community partners in every way that we can. Thanks to our generous donors who responded to a targeted fundraising campaign, we were able to provide packages of daily food and cleaning staples to every household in our partner community Santa Clara. In addition, we provided medications requested by community members in order to meet their regular prescription needs as well as emergency supplies that would usually be sought after in the local health post. We were likewise able to transport packages to the community of Paoyhan. Since normal transport has been curtailed, our staff members travelled over 30 hours by boat to complete this delivery, highlighting the extreme situations that communities currently face. Local allies in urban residencies have also been provided with food deliveries, and we have recently initiated efforts to raise an emergency fund for individuals and families in need with a partner organization, Xapiri.
As of June 12th, the Peruvian Ministry of Health reported 220,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (out of 1,300,000 individuals tested). Unfortunately, diagnostic COVID-19 testing is extremely limited in the Amazonian regions of the country, especially in areas where existing health services and statistics are already scarce. In the community of Paoyhan, the nurse technician who runs the community’s only health post told us he had received two separate shipments of 55 and 50 rapid tests for COVID-19 from the local-level Ministry of Health office in order to serve his community of approximately 1,500 people. After conducting preliminary household testing, he feels confident that most households have at least one infected person, despite no positive cases being recorded for this locale.
While people across the world find themselves facing difficulties at this time, crises such as these undeniably exacerbate longstanding inequalities at national and local levels. Like other indigenous communities, our partner communities have received no support from the government, and no plans are currently in place to provide meaningful support. Shipibo-Konibo communities have found themselves largely cutoff, unable to access food, healthcare, and their usual sources of income. Many families, already vulnerable due to poverty and related sequelae such as food insecurity, are faced with unprecedented need.
In the face of these challenges, we are witnessing exceptional leadership among communities. Shipibo leaders have taken action to set up their own security checkpoints to limit the possibility of infection in their communities. Our partners at Axenon Ikanwe have aired pertinent COVID-19 information on their radio program in order to inform Shipibo-speaking listeners. Indigenous people around the country are galvanizing in support of one another to demand the essential support and services to which they have a right.
As always, our staff at Alianza Arkana have proven to be relentlessly dedicated. A core tenet of community health is the promotion of systems and behaviors that ensure the wellbeing not only of individuals, but of all who surround us. The coronavirus pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of our work and we will remain steadfast in our mission.
We hope that all of our allies and their loved ones are safe and healthy during this time. We extend our sincerest gratitude to everyone who has supported us and sought to keep themselves informed of our struggles and ongoing work.
Alianza Arkana is an indigenous-led non-profit organization working with Shipibo-Konibo communities in the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon. For more information, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, visit our website, and contact us at email@example.com.
Rapid test administered in Paoyhan