The Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Peru
Compared to other countries, Peru has the worst COVID-19 death rate, with “nearly 6,000 deaths for every 1 million Peruvians.” On the other hand, the United States has recorded 2,400 COVID-19 deaths per 1 million people. When Peru reached 71 COVID-19 cases, it implemented strict lockdown restrictions on March 15, 2020. In fact, Peru was one of the first countries to take action against COVID-19. The Peruvian government closed the country’s borders and advised its citizens to refrain from leaving their homes unless they went to work or bought any necessities for their families. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Peru has continued to worsen, but some are taking action to help slow the problem.

Economic Challenges in Peru During COVID-19

Even with lockdown restrictions in place, Peru continued to see an increase in COVID-19 cases because people needed to leave their homes to survive. According to the World Bank, Peru has a poverty rate of 27%, which is about 2 million people. As a result, about 70% of the population have informal jobs that do not provide them with basic health care benefits, social protection or education due to the lack of legal recognition. Most street vendors, domestic workers and waste pickers only make about $100 a month, making it impossible to stay home because they need to work to afford necessities for their families.

Furthermore, 40% of households lack access to a refrigerator. Because of this, families do not have the option to stock up on food for a couple of days. To have enough food to eat in their homes, families need to venture out to busy food markets, a place where COVID-19 can easily spread among people. To illustrate, “when authorities shut down one of Lima’s more than 1,200 food markets and performed rapid discard tests on traders, 163 of 842 came back positive.”

Due to these economic challenges, the Peruvian government provided disadvantaged families “grants of around $200 each to help them weather the crisis.” However, people from the poorer areas of Peru do not have bank accounts, causing them to get their money by traveling to the banks in person. As a result, COVID-19 spread in the long lines people waited in.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Iquitos

One city that the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Peru most affected is Iquitos, a port city on the Amazon river that many refer to as an island. Many believed the pandemic would not reach the island because of how secluded it is from the mainland. However, unfortunately, COVID-19 reached Iquitos, and it did not have the proper equipment to treat people for the virus. The Loreto Province hospital consisted of 12 ICU beds, but it used seven of them as designated COVID-19 treatment beds. “By mid-May of 2020, that hospital was on the verge of collapse.” With increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitals began to use army cots to treat virus-infected patients.

The Challenges of Acquiring Supplies

Peru struggled with the pandemic because it did not produce its own medical supplies, causing it to rely on imports. When the pandemic first began, every country wanted to stock up on surgical face masks, ventilators and protective equipment to protect their citizens and stop the spread of COVID-19. Because of this, Peru had to compete against wealthy countries, such as the United States. However, it did not have the money to do so. Without any of the proper medical equipment, Peruvian doctors continued to help their COVID-19 patients any way they could. Unfortunately, the staff at the hospital worked long shifts with a single mask, causing many of them to get sick.

A Catholic priest and physician, Raymond Portelli, posted a request for donations on his Facebook page to invest in an oxygen bottling plant when he realized oxygen was the pivotal treatment to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Peru. Portelli’s fundraiser succeeded, which led him to buy four more plants for Iquitos. Moreover, “Peru also lacked the stable political leadership needed to address the crisis at home and negotiate for medical supplies from abroad.” According to Mariana Leguia, an infectious disease expert, Peru had four presidents in 2020. This made it impossible for the government to act on the medical, economic and social crises.

Garnering Vaccines

Although the FDIC has approved a COVID-19 vaccine for people 5-years-old and older, Peru’s vaccination rate is only 4%. “Peru has secured enough doses to vaccinate its population,” but it is waiting for the delivery of the vaccines to reach its country. Once Peru receives the vaccines, it will need to keep them at the correct room temperature. Luckily, UNICEF is helping ensure careful distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by “bolstering Peru’s cold chain capacity,” which includes social freezers and refrigerators. So far, UNICEF has provided Peru with 1,100 solar-powered freezers to store the vaccines.

Lastly, the World Bank Board of Directors allocated $68 million in loans to help strengthen “epidemiological surveillance and response capacity to public health emergencies in Peru.” By doing this, hospitals will be able to detect any new COVID-19 cases in a timely manner, helping them have a better response system towards any health emergencies. To add, in July 2021, the United States government decided to provide Peru with $36 million to afford new resources and 2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. By doing this, the United States will help Peru’s emergency efforts reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Peru led to people not complying with lockdown restrictions because they needed to continue working to survive. Luckily, UNICEF, the World Bank and the United States are providing COVID-19 relief to stop the spread of the virus in the country.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Peru’s Economic Growth
For several decades, the World Bank classified Peru’s economy as one of the fastest-expanding economies. While this is true, this expansion slowed between 2014-2019. This led to an 11.1% drop in economic growth in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The drop caused job sectors to slow down, though others surged in their place. Despite the fall, there is good news: Peru’s economic growth could increase by 13% at the end of the fiscal year 2021.

What is Economic Growth?

The improvement or decline in the market value of goods or services produced measures economic growth. The more goods and services produced or traded, the more money that goes to the economy. The changes in a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) typically measure economic growth. With economic growth comes increased salaries, job availability and standards of living.

There are two primary methods to improve economic growth: improved goods, both technological and physical (capital) and tools that help increase production. Both avenues traditionally lead to economic growth. In this case, both methods explain why Peru’s GDP had a decline in 2020 and how Peru’s economy has recovered since then.

Peru’s Economic Foundation

Peru’s economy has experienced its ups and downs. The economy is based in the services sector, with telecommunications and financial services being the most significant. Services contribute to 60% of the overall GDP, with industries providing 35% to the GDP. However, reforms in the industry are a result of the changes in the mining industry. As Peruvian industries shrink, the telecommunications and services sectors grow.

Although mining was the primary source of income for Peru’s economy, the industry had the highest recorded fall in production ever. Many mining companies had to minimize the number of workers they could allow at a time in the mines and processing plants. The minimization cut production and output with a 13% reduction in copper production and processing. With the reduction in mining work and production output, other sectors stepped up to fill the job gap and start contributing to Peru’s GDP more significantly than in the past.

Improvements in 2020 and 2021

The downturn in Peru’s economy in 2020 left 27% of the population in poverty, as the World Bank reported. The additional 2 million people who slid into poverty highlighted the growing poverty rate in Peru. However, hope is on the horizon.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the telecommunications sector expanded. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, telecommunications were slow to grow in Peru. Back in 2012, the Peruvian government passed law 29985, explicit approval of the usage of electronic money. Law 29985 showed the government’s willingness to explore technology and expand its place in Peru. However, there were still barriers to the use of e-money. In 2012, many Peruvians still lacked access to the internet, computers, and technology needed to access e-money.

Advantages of Technology

Technology in Peru improved in 2020 when most services, including banking, went remote. The number of individuals using e-money increased by an average of 1,000 new users in specific e-money platforms a month. With new internet platform users and increased internet usage came new jobs and the potential for economic gain.

Historically, increased online usage leads to job opportunities through expanded internet and broadband access, especially in areas that lacked immediate internet access. In 2020 and 2021, there were increases in job openings and hirings in the telecommunications sector across Peru. Jobs in telecommunications filled rapidly in 2021, with the most considerable growth taking place in June 2021.

Expected Economic Growth

Telecommunications and its contributions to Peru’s economy have steadily climbed since 2014. In 2019, telecommunications generated a revenue of approximately $6.3 billion. With the expected economic growth stemming from growing telecommunications, the sector’s contributions to the GDP could be even higher by the end of the year. This could make telecommunications one of the most significant contributors to the GDP in Peru’s service sector.

With the newly opened and added jobs, the Peruvian services and telecommunications sectors have grown. This is allowing the sectors to increase their income and contributions to Peru’s economy. Thus, enabling the GDP to expand and retain economic growth as well. As the market opens and job availability grows, the Peruvian government predicts that Peru’s economic growth will grow by 13%. With Peru’s projected economic growth, there is an excellent likelihood that the poverty rate could shrink at least 1% to 2%, if not more.

Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

School Lunches in Peru
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the importance of school lunches in introducing children to nutrition and influencing their health outcomes over time. Although the emphasis on school meals has grown significantly in countries around the world over the last decade, Peru has struggled to make a drastic nutritional transition in comparison to its developed counterparts. However, the nation’s Qali Warma program aims to improve nutritional outcomes through school lunches in Peru.

Peru in Numbers

As of 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) recognizes 22% of Peru’s population as impoverished without access to proper nutrition. Furthermore, of children younger than 5, 13.1% suffer from chronic malnourishment. With a total population of 31 million individuals, these statistics illustrate the severity of inadequate nutrition in Peru.

However, over the years, Peru was able to reduce rates of chronic child malnutrition by 50%, a significant feat for the nation. While statistics on hunger and poverty show improvements over the past 10 years, it is important to recognize that rates of malnutrition differ across regions of Peru. In some rural areas, chronic child malnutrition reaches almost 34%. Furthermore, the rates of child stunting among Indigenous groups have remained the same since 2011. The lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods in Peru is partly responsible for these concerning rates.

Qali Warma Nation School Feeding Program

The lack of access to healthy and nutritious foods in Peru has led to a plethora of health concerns. Among the most pressing issues are anemia and obesity, which both serve as risk factors for other illnesses. The Peruvian government recognizes the concerning rates of anemia and child obesity in its country, leading to the implementation of the Qali Warma school feeding program.

Qali Warma is a social program that the Peruvian government implemented, aimed at increasing the health and nutrition of children through school lunches in Peru. The name Qali Warma originates from the Indigenous Quechua language and translates to “vigorous child.” The meaning behind the name is an ode to the mission of the group — encouraging “healthy eating habits” among the youth of Peru. Qali Warma’s main focus is children in early learning and primary education. However, to benefit Indigenous children in the Peruvian Amazon, the program extends its reach to high school students.

Since its implementation in 2012, the Ministry of Development & Social Inclusion of Peru (MIDIS) has overseen the program along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Initially developed as a three-year-long initiative, the success of the program means Qali Warma will continue until 2022. For the past decade, Qali Warma has provided healthy school lunches in Peru, improving eating habits among children while simultaneously engaging with local communities and providing people with food education.

A Two-pronged Strategy

The program consists of two services working in tandem with each other. The food service entails planning school meal menus and gathering the ingredients and supplies needed to put the meals together. Qali Warma uses specific calculations to ensure it meets the necessary nutritional and caloric requirements for child development. Moreover, the organization takes into account different cultural diets and consumer habits of each area it serves. The educational service component is primarily instructional. Qali Warma promotes “healthy eating habits and hygiene practices among the beneficiary children” while providing technical support and educational outreach to people implementing the food services.

Results and Reach

As Peru continues to invest in programs like Qali Warma, outcomes are proving successful in improving children’s health. By 2019, Qali Warma’s school lunches in Peru benefited more than 4 million children in total. Overall, the government notes an improvement in the overall nutritional state of these children since addressing nutrition with school lunches in Peru. Qali Warma reports that the impacts of school lunches extend far beyond nutrition as children are also more focused in classes and are eager to attend school. Nutrition specialists second this sentiment.

While Peruvian youth have struggled to maintain healthy levels of nutrition, addressing these issues in the places where children spend the most time, like schools, creates a lasting impact. Increasing the nutritional benefits of school lunches in Peru is a crucial first step in addressing malnutrition. However, consistent monitoring and modification are necessary as the program expands to reach more children nationwide.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Poverty reduction in Peru
Peru, a small country of 32 million located on the western coast of South America, has made significant reductions in poverty in the 21st century. Over the last 20 years, Peru’s GDP quadrupled and its poverty rate decreased by nearly 30% by 2019. Peru’s rapidly growing economy, combined with substantial social welfare programs, resulted in a drastic increase in quality of life for poor and middle-class Peruvians. But notably, these gains largely concentrate in urban areas. While the Peruvian economy was not exempt from a COVID-19 induced recession, expectations have determined that it could rebound in 2021. Here is a review of how things stand in regard to eliminating poverty in Peru.

Eliminating Poverty in Peru

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peru experienced 14 consecutive years of poverty reduction. Its economy ranks as one of the 21st century’s fastest-growing economies due to the high demand for its natural resource exports of copper, petroleum and zinc. While Peru’s middle class enjoys substantial growth due to its booming economy, inequality persists, especially in rural areas. A web of social welfare programs has been integral to Peru’s successful war on poverty as well as increased access to education and financial institutions. Previous administrations successfully balanced growth and poverty reduction in Peru, but more work is necessary.

Rural Poverty in Peru

Despite Peru’s strong growth and successful anti-poverty initiatives, much of the rural population still suffer material deprivation. In 2014, Peru’s rural poverty rate was nearly 50% with an estimated 15% of rural children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Past administrations created several initiatives to expand welfare access in rural areas. However, Peru’s diverse geography and mountainous rural terrain make them difficult to implement. Rural Peruvians experience limited access to social programs and high transaction and transportation costs. Additionally, they enjoy far less economic opportunity or connection to growing markets than their urban peers.

Rural poverty concentrates most widely among the indigenous population, who often live in geographically isolated areas. Exacerbating the urban-rural cleavage are conflicts between the government and indigenous rights groups over mining and energy projects in the Andes. This conflict highlights the friction between extractive policies that constitute the base of Peru’s growing economy and the lived experience of rural Andeans who bear the cost of these industrial initiatives.

Peru’s New President

Pedro Castillo of the socialist Free Peru party won the June 2021 election. His election marked a paradigm shift in Peru’s political landscape. The former teacher and son of rural peasants, Castillo won a close election against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peruvian dictator Albert Fujimori who ruled the country from 1990 to 2000. Fujimori claimed that election fraud was responsible for Castillo’s victory, but the Peruvian election authorities ultimately dismissed her claims. Representing his rural constituency, Castillo declared that “Votes from the highest mountain and farthest corner of the country are worth the same as votes from San Isidro and Miraflores” in response to the baseless claims of election fraud.

Castillo promises to aggressively fight poverty and increase the state’s role in the economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Castillo’s posture as an anti-establishment populist will make his economic revolution difficult in the face of elite opposition. However, Peru’s difficult year increased the appetite for radical reforms to the neoliberal economy. Peru has experienced the highest deaths per capita of any country in the world and has seen its poverty rate increase due to the 2020 recession. Castillo’s five-year term will be a new chapter for a country that has not seen a truly left-wing president in a generation.

Snowballing Success in Eliminating Poverty in Peru

Peru has made impressive gains against poverty in recent decades. However, a multitude of factors has prevented these gains from undergoing equal distribution among urban and rural Peruvians. COVID-19’s impact led to the election of a socialist president who has pledged to take aggressive steps toward poverty reduction, especially in rural areas. While Peru’s poverty rate is less than half of what it was two decades ago, there is still a long road ahead to ameliorate the material deprivation that nearly 7 million Peruvians experience.

– Will Pease
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Water ScarcityIn Latin America, the health and well-being of rural communities are threatened by water scarcity and poor sanitation. In recent decades, the number of people facing water scarcity has declined. Unfortunately, with 36 million people currently lacking access to clean water in Latin America, water scarcity is an issue that is just too prevalent. EOS International aims to address Latin American water scarcity by providing simple and affordable solutions to increase access to clean water.

Causes of Latin American Water Scarcity

While many factors contribute to the water crisis, the outsized role of climate change cannot be ignored. Recent increases in extreme weather events including flooding, hurricanes and droughts threaten the water supply of many Latin American countries. For example, in Peru, flooding left water treatment plants full of rocks and debris, clogging the water supply. Consequently, authorities made the decision to restrict water usage in the Peruvian cities of Lima and Arequipa.

On the other end of the spectrum, drought threatens Bolivia’s water supply, which is significantly rainfall-reliant. Extreme weather conditions, however, are not the only factors threatening clean water access for Latin Americans. Misguided governmental decision-making exacerbates the problem. Most consequentially, increases in deforestation, mining and the creation of mega dams have exacerbated the occurrence of extreme weather patterns. In turn, these developments often harm the water supply in many Latin American countries. Of particular concern in Peru, international mining companies polluted waterways and “hijacked” the water supply, harming the livelihoods of farmers in the region.

In other countries, the biggest threat to the water supply is agribusinesses with undue control over water allocation. This synergy of extreme weather conditions, extractive industries, agribusinesses and governmental inaction still threatens rural families in Latin America who lack access to clean water.

Health and Water Scarcity

Water scarcity poses a direct danger to human health. The most harrowing outcome is waterborne illnesses, primarily diarrheal diseases, which are too often fatal. Waterborne illness is responsible for one in nine child deaths around the world. The pollution in the water itself is an environmental hazard. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that in children younger than 5 in the Americas, close to 100,000 die from such pollution annually.

Water Scarcity Hinders Poverty Reduction

Not only does water scarcity threaten the health of rural communities in Latin America but it is also a major obstacle to poverty prevention. Without clean water, it is nearly impossible to stay healthy enough to manage a job, go to school, construct a home or undertake other essential endeavors necessary to pull oneself out of poverty.

When women have to travel long distances to collect water, they waste hours of time and energy that can otherwise go toward more productive endeavors such as education and paid employment. Areas lacking clean water are also more vulnerable to food insecurity as it is more difficult to grow sufficient crops to feed the populous. Food security, education and employment are all key to poverty reduction, however, a lack of access to water presents a barrier to these outcomes.

Efforts to Alleviate Water Scarcity

Organizational efforts play a role in driving the decrease in overall water scarcity. EOS International is one such organization. EOS stands for “Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability.” The organization’s work aims to empower rural families in Central America by facilitating access to clean drinking water through technological advances and education.

As part of this goal, EOS volunteers help rural communities to safeguard clean water. The volunteers regularly test water quality and then treat unsafe and contaminated water, usually with chlorine tablets. The volunteers then monitor the water system over time, providing chlorine tablets to communities when required. Not only does EOS provide base-level support but it also manufactures and installs simple technologies that provide long-term support for the water supply. Since its establishment in 2008, EOS has installed more than 2,000 simple, affordable and “locally serviceable technologies” in Central America.

The organization also supports economic growth and income generation in communities. EOS International has “provided clean water services including training, education and support for 1,169 communities,” positively impacting more than 500,000 people. Furthermore, the organization’s “50 chlorine distribution centers have created income-generating opportunities for local entrepreneurs.”

Looking to the Future

EOS International has made a measurable impact on the health of rural Latin Americans. The organization has installed technologies that provided lasting clean water access to more than half a million people in Honduras and Nicaragua alone.

EOS International’s successes in combating Latin American water scarcity are not possible without the support of donors and volunteers. The implementation of technologies is done in large part by people willing to give their time to support rural families. Nonprofits make a measurable impact in the lives of countless families facing water insecurity. However, their work is not possible without generous contributions of time and monetary support. EOS International’s efforts are an example of the vital work being done by nonprofits to combat global poverty.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in PeruLife in Peru is rich in indigenous culture and beautiful landmarks such as Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Amazon jungle. Livelihoods in Peru take different forms as people from the countryside live in more traditional means, partly because of their Quechua origins and the location in which they reside. In the working world of Peru, children often work beside adults. However, the prevalence of child labor means that child poverty in Peru is also prevalent.

Rural Children in Peru

The significantly mountainous geography of Peru affects how citizens travel and exert energy to accomplish daily tasks. The land in Peru creates a large gap between urban and rural lifestyles. For a person who lives in rural land, it is normal for whole families to provide for each other because it is the most efficient means for survival.

Everyone plays a part, including the children, who have obligations to the rural Peruvian household. Project Peru states that approximately “28.6% of children between the ages of 6-17 already receive wages or are paid in kind.” Fulfilling duties to support the household is not uncommon. Earning an income while trying to balance schooling is a norm for many Peruvian children. Yet, prioritizing income over education only serves to exacerbate child poverty in Peru since education is a proven tool for breaking cycles of poverty.

Children Providing for the Household

Roughly 90% of Peruvian children work in informal job sectors. These jobs are often unregulated, putting children at risk of exploitation and dangerous working conditions. Some of these children work more than 45 hours per week — more than an average adult’s work schedule in the United States. The informal sectors contribute to 73% of the economy’s labor.

In the same instance, child labor usage significantly benefits unregulated, informal businesses, and as such, employers consider children to be assets. Hence, child poverty in Peru is commonly present because informal sectors take advantage of underprivileged rural children, often underpaying, overworking and exploiting these children.

An April 2008 study by Alan Sanchez shows that almost one in every two Peruvians lives in poverty. Meanwhile, 60% of Peruvian children live in poverty. Urban children do not experience the same hardships because they often do not need to provide extensive income for the household through child labor. For children from the countryside, however, life is vastly different.

The prevalence of child labor links to high rates of poverty and minimal opportunities for well-paying, secure employment that can provide enough monetary support for the whole household. In addition, a lack of social support from the government means families struggle to meet their basic needs without the economic assistance of their children.

The United States Intervenes

In response to the high rates of child poverty in Peru, in July 2012, the U.S. donated $13 million to Peru to reduce the usage of child labor. The donation helped make educational resources more available for rural children. The pilot program created by Peru had plans to support rural families to increase their income without relying on the employment of a child in the household. The director of the project, Maro Guerrero, said Peru is not against children working. However, children’s work should not interfere with their education and well-being. The pilot program was expected to yield positive results, however, there is little data available on the official achievements of the program.

“Free of Child Labor” Certification

In 2019, the government of Peru partnered with an NGO “to create a new label to certify family businesses” as “free of child labor.” This effort serves to help eradicate child labor in Peru. In 2019, roughly “1,500 small producers” were “preparing to be evaluated and due to obtain certification by 2020.” María Gloria Barreiro, director of the Development and Self-Management NGO, states that “It’s not about children not helping at home, it’s about drawing that line that divides help at home, training and learning activities and what constitutes a danger.”

The Peruvian government hopes that these child labor-free certified products will sell at a higher price, as with organic goods, improving the income of impoverished Peruvians. Barreiro emphasizes that to truly eradicate child labor, the certification must exist alongside social initiatives “to improve the economic situation of small producers and ensure their children have access to education.”

With efforts from governments and organizations that aim to reduce child poverty in Peru, hope is on the horizon for the impoverished children of Peru.

– Trever Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in PeruCOVID-19 has ravaged populations and economies alike. It has also exacerbated the impacts of previous conditions that threaten the developing world. In particular, the lung-damaging disease known as tuberculosis has seen an alarming resurgence. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified tuberculosis as one of the 10 leading causes of death worldwide as recently as 2019. Furthermore, the Stop TB Partnership asserts that in just one year, the novel coronavirus and its wide-reaching implications have delayed progress on the eradication of tuberculosis by 12 years. The problem is especially grave in Peru where both COVID-19 and a tuberculosis resurgence are impacting healthcare resources. Cases of both viruses have only multiplied the threat of each, calling for swift solutions.

The History of Tuberculosis in Peru

Tuberculosis in Peru was a pressing issue long before the emergence of COVID-19. Peru reports the second-highest rate of tuberculosis in the Americas and WHO has classified Peru as one of the countries with the most cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) worldwide. Peru’s economic landscape makes it the perfect hotbed for highly contagious diseases such as COVID-19 and tuberculosis. Roughly 27% of Peru’s population lives in poverty, with a lack of proper housing confining many to dense slums in urban centers. When combined with restricted access to healthcare, these circumstances worsen the spread of disease.

In recent years, Peru has made strides in combating the spread of tuberculosis. For example, the Peruvian government has revamped its tuberculosis control program by establishing multiple committees to guide tuberculosis containment. It has also increased funding for tuberculosis efforts. However, COVID-19 has become a serious roadblock to this mission.

The Impact of Two Pandemics

Upon the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Peru in early 2020, nearly all the country’s healthcare equipment and resources went toward its treatment and containment. Peru’s healthcare system lacked the capacity to continue fighting tuberculosis as it had, thus, COVID-19 and tuberculosis cases rose simultaneously. Lockdown has also limited the availability of tuberculosis testing, making it harder for doctors to track the disease’s spread. Doctors fear inadequate access to proper medical care and resources will contribute to the development of new strands of MDR-TB.

Continuing to Fight Tuberculosis

The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly continue to impact how Peru addresses tuberculosis. However, efforts have occurred at every level of society to keep combating the latter’s rise. For example, the government is continuing the TB Móvil program which it established in 2019 to increase access to tuberculosis testing by mobilizing vans across the country. The program will provide wide-reaching tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment options.

Non-governmental organizations are working on the ground in Peru as well. Socios en Salud (Partners in Health), which has been active in Peru since the mid-1990s, created its own programs and tools to increase access to tuberculosis treatments. The tools include Mochila TB, individual backpack machines that are useful for tuberculosis testing. The portable and compact machines “[take] testing directly to patients.” One device can test as many as 80 people per day. Solutions like Mochila TB make healthcare more accessible to the rural population. The devices can therefore greatly reduce the impact of tuberculosis in Peru.

Descriptions have determined that Mochila TB is a combination of “digital radiology, artificial intelligence and molecular biology” and has already made a significant impact. Since early March 2021, Mochila TB has reached 3,491 people in the most remote communities of Peru. The mobile testing capability eases the strain on healthcare systems to accommodate for COVID-19 care.

Paving the Way Forward

Healthcare professionals have identified another key step in mitigating COVID-19’s effect on the spread of tuberculosis in Peru: using the healthcare system to combat both diseases simultaneously. Given the diseases’ many similarities in infection, containment and spread, using the same strategies and principles for COVID-19 and tuberculosis in Peru can help stop the spread of both. Through innovations and strategizing, Peru should be able to successfully combat both pandemics.

Nathan Mo
Photo: Flickr

Quinoa Supports Farmers in PeruQuinoa is a species of goosefoot original to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. For more than 6,000 years, Peruvians and Bolivians considered quinoa a sacred crop because of its resistance to high altitudes, heat, frost and aridness. Because of its sudden rise in worldwide popularity, the U.N. declared 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” to recognize the indigenous people of the Andes, who continue to preserve quinoa for present and future generations. Quinoa supports farmers and livelihoods in Peru.

History of Peru’s Quinoa

Due to its high nutritional qualities, quinoa has been grown and consumed as a staple crop by people throughout the Andean region. However, when the Spanish arrived in the late 1500s and sent farmers to gold mines in Peru and Bolivia, quinoa production declined sharply. The year 2013 marked a turning point in quinoa-producing countries. The crop surged in popularity because of its superb nutritional value, containing all eight essential amino acids. It is also low in carbohydrates but high in unsaturated fats, fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. The sudden demand for Quinoa from the U.S. and Europe increased the price of the grain from $3 in 2010 to $6.75 in 2014.

The Quinoa Market Boom

Today, quinoa supports farmers in Peru, as Peru is one of the world leaders in quinoa production and exports. In 2016, Peru produced 80,000 tons of the crop, about 53.3% of the world’s volume, with 47% of quinoa exports worldwide.

In 2012, Peru exported $31 million worth of quinoa. Two years later, the export value of quinoa was six times that amount, at $197 million. In 2016, however, the export value dropped to $104 million. This was reflected in the average price of quinoa worldwide. In 2012, a kilo of quinoa cost $3.15. In 2014, the price shot up to $6.74 per kilo. By 2017, however, the price had dropped dramatically to $1.66 per kilo.

The demand and price fluctuations had several negative effects, including reducing the welfare of households. When quinoa prices fell, total household food consumption decreased by 10% and wages fell by 5%.

Though traditionally grown for household consumption only, the global demand for quinoa encouraged farmers to use their fields for quinoa production only. The monocropping negatively affects the overall health of the fields, as nutrients do not get replenished as they would by rotating crops.

5 Ways Quinoa Supports Farmers in Peru

With the help of several U.N. agencies and national and local governments within Peru, a program called “Andean Grains” was implemented in Ayacucho and Puno – rural areas with high levels of poverty, where 78% of Peru’s quinoa is produced, to create a value chain of quinoa production to increase the welfare of farmers. Through the program, quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways:

  1. Income of rural quinoa producers increased by 22%. By focusing on producing organic quinoa and fulfilling a niche market demand, rural Peruvian farmers remain competitive in the global market. The program trained more than 2,000 producers in cooperative management and financial education and certified several farmers for organic production.
  2. The production, promotion and consumption of Quinoa improved. By implementing technological alternatives, including establishing technical standards for producing organic fertilizer, farmers increased their crop yields, improving the food quality and nutrition of the grain and making the crop more available to local communities. In Puno alone, yields increased by 13% through the organic certification program.
  3. More farmers joined cooperatives, increasing their market power. The program taught farmers about selecting suppliers, managing credit, how to negotiate when signing a contract and how to commercialize their organic quinoa. By standardizing the production of organic quinoa, poor farmers could negotiate better market prices under a collective brand. The cooperatives also promoted the national consumption of quinoa and helped sustainable development of the quinoa value chain.
  4. The program empowered female farmers. Women make up 31% of agricultural producers and more than 50% of participants in the program were women. They were able to accumulate up to $4,800 through Unions of Credit and Savings, which they used to buy natural fertilizers to protect their lands from desertification.
  5. The program participants’ welfare increased. In areas of Peru where quinoa was consumed before the boom, a 10% increase in the price of the quinoa increased the welfare of the average household by 0.7%. The additional income to quinoa producers in turn allowed them to spend more. Household consumption also increased by 46%.

Quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways. After the implementation of the U.N. “Andean Grains” program, the income and wealth of Peruvian farmers increased. By joining cooperatives, both male and female producers compete in the global competitive market. Today, quinoa continues to be celebrated as a vital part of Peru’s economy and culture.

Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

How the Wawa Laptop Project is Helping Peru's Remote EducationThe COVID-19 pandemic has led to the closure of schools in many countries, keeping children at home and highlighting the inequality of education worldwide. The quality of education for children in Peru, a nation with one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates, is based largely on the wealth of the family. This disparity in opportunity will only grow larger with remote schooling and more of the education burden will fall on the parents. Families that cannot afford personal tutors or often expensive education technology and the internet currently have no access to quality education for their children. Many organizations and companies in Latin America are assisting with this burden, creating new ways to provide education to impoverished students. People highly praise school broadcasts on television and affordable curriculum education, but some companies are trying to make the technology itself more attainable for students. The WAWA Laptop Project is one example of this, creating laptops out of recycled materials and forming an initiative to donate laptops to Peruvian students in need.

Unequal Education in Peru

According to a UNICEF study, roughly 463 million students across the world are without access to proper education and cannot access remote learning through television, internet or additional services. This leaves students with no access to any form of education. This issue greatly impacts children in Peru who can only be outside of the home for just one hour a day during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Throughout Latin America, an average of 67% of the population has access to the internet, with that percentage closer to 10% in the most impoverished nations. In Peru, around one in three homes have access to a computer, meaning that a majority of the population does not have easy access to the internet. The harsh reality of this is that, at least for impoverished children in Peru, remote learning is simply impossible as it currently stands.

The government of Peru is involving itself, ensuring that class lessons will be available on television broadcast until 2021, but this still leaves a portion of the population without access to education. This inability to accommodate all students seems to mean that, until schools can safely reopen, impoverished children will be left behind by their more wealthy classmates.

WAWA Laptops and Eco-friendly Tech Amid COVID-19

The creators of WAWA Laptops developed the idea a year ago in an attempt to provide technology to the most vulnerable children in Peru. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiative shifted to responding to the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak in impoverished regions. Solar-powered and running on Linux operating systems, the laptops are made out of recycled materials, making them far more affordable for impoverished families. The creators estimate that the laptops can last as long as 15 years. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, hundreds of Peruvian children received WAWA Laptops.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, WAWA Laptops stand as an affordable solution to some of the issues many children in Peru face. As a response, the company has launched the “Donate a WAWA Laptop, Educate a child” campaign, in which people can donate a laptop to a child in need. This donation will allow children who would otherwise miss out on a year of school to keep up with their fellow students. While not a total solution to the education divide in the country, the WAWA Laptop Project provides impoverished Peruvian children with a means to continue their education.

While students in Peru as well as the rest of the developing world are sure to face continued struggles in this year of remote learning, initiatives like the WAWA Laptop Project are supporting the most vulnerable young people. Access to technology and opportunity will be one of the main determinators for schooling in the COVID-19 age. With support and ongoing donations, WAWA Laptops will allow children in Peru to stay focused on school amid the unprecedented international crisis.

– Matthew McKee
Photo: Flickr

Oxygen Shortage in Peru
In light of the pandemic, there is an oxygen shortage in Peru. The South American country is in dire need of tanked or canister oxygen for citizens fighting COVID-19. When the outbreak first began, Peru was one of the first nations in Latin America to institute national restrictions, such as curfews, stay-at-home orders and border closures. However, the immense poverty undermined federal efforts. The poor had no choice but to continue leaving their homes for work in order to put food on the table. Despite the necessity, Peru struggles to provide vital healthcare to its infected citizens.

Why Oxygen?

COVID-19 attacks the body and makes breathing increasingly difficult for infected individuals. They simply cannot intake enough oxygen into their system to support their organs, especially those with compromised immune systems or lungs. This deprivation causes acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARSD) within five days of having the infection. The only treatment for ARSD is to replenish the patient’s lost oxygen. Clinical studies found oxygen respirators to be crucial for patient recovery from COVID-19.

Shortage Crisis

Peru’s national health care system was struggling even before the pandemic. After switching to a universal system, the program initially failed to provide for routine needs due to lack of funding. The current health crisis only amplified this inadequacy. Now, there is a full-blown oxygen shortage in the country. According to the nation’s Health Minister, Víctor Zamora, the country falls short of nearly 180 tons of oxygen every day.

The biggest issue, however, lies not in obtaining the gas. According to Gallardo, an oxygen distribution company, Peru’s oxygen shortage is not necessarily due to a lack of medically filtered oxygen. Instead, the problem occurs in the canisters transporting such oxygen. Recovering patients are hoarding the canisters instead of returning them for a refill because of their increase in value. Desperate family members of sick individuals are relying on the black market to obtain oxygen canisters.

The Response

Charities, as well as the government, are working to fight the unique oxygen shortage in Peru. In a press conference, President Martin Vizcarra revealed that $24.5 million will go toward the Health Ministry. These funds will help purchase a necessary oxygen supply for the country.

A few individuals, specifically in the religious community, have also been making a difference in the lives of the sick. In the city of Iquitos, Father Miguel Fuertes headed a fundraising campaign for poor families who cannot afford the oxygen tanks. Through these efforts, he was able to raise over $500,000 for the cause.

Another priest in northern Peru, Father José Manuel Zamora Romero, led the #ResisteLambayeque campaign. Through this effort, he was able to provide hundreds of biosafety equipment kits to struggling hospitals and medical centers. Despite the rising infection numbers and decreasing supplies, such work has positively affected hundreds and continues to instill hope for Peru.

Despite the oxygen shortage in Peru, measures to improve access to it should prove beneficial. In fact, the efforts of Father Miguel Fuertes and Father José Manuel Zamora Romero, among others, have already helped impoverished areas obtain access to oxygen tanks and medical care.

Amanda J. Godfrey
Photo: Flickr