Posts

How the Wawa Laptop Project is Helping Peru's Remote EducationAs the COVID-19 pandemic keeps schools in many countries closed and kids at home, it also highlights the inequality of education worldwide. The quality of education for children in Peru, a nation with one of the highest virus mortality rates, is based largely on the wealth of the family. This disparity in opportunity will only grow larger with remote schooling, where more of the burden is put on the parents and home to provide for the students. For families who cannot afford personal tutors or often-expensive education technology and the internet, they currently have no access to quality education for their children. Many organizations and companies in Latin America have been able to assist in this burden, creating new ways to provide education to poor students. School broadcasts on television and affordable curriculum education have been highly-praised, but some companies have been 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, nearly 463 students across the world are without access to proper education, as well as television, internet or additional services. This leaves students out entirely, with no access to any form of education. This issue is impacting children in Peru, where children are allotted only one hour outside of the home a day.

Throughout Latin America, it is reported that only an average of 67% of the population has access to the internet, with that number closer to 10% in the poorest nations. In Peru, around one in three homes have access to a computer, meaning that a majority of the population is left without 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 exists.

The government of Peru has become involved, ensuring that class lessons will be available on television broadcast until 2021, but this would still leave out a portion of the population with access to education. This inability to accommodate all students seems to mean that, until the schools can safely reopen, impoverished children will be left behind from their more wealthy classmates.

Wawa Laptops and Eco-friendly Tech Amid COVID-19

Wawa Laptops were created a year ago as 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 also constructed using recycled materials, meaning that they are far more affordable for impoverished families. The laptops are said to last as long as 15 years, and before the outbreak, the Wawa Laptops had been successfully given to hundreds of Peruvian children in need.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Wawa Laptops seem to be an affordable solution to some of the issues many children in Peru are facing. 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 be left out of 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 quality 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, organizations like 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 the 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

COVID-19 in PeruPeru is currently the country with the world’s highest per-population confirmed COVID-19 mortality rate, and native communities are amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic. Peru is home to one of Latin America’s largest Indigenous populations, whose ancestors lived in the Andean country before the arrival of Spanish colonists. Peru has a population of 32 million people, with 33% of Peruvians identify as Indigenous. Most Indigenous communities are located in remote regions with extremely limited access to doctors and healthcare services.

In Peru, the number of COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people has exceeded 21,000. Across many measures, Indigenous Peruvians are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Conventional medical services are rare and often ill-equipped. The national census reported that only about one-third of communities have access to clinics. Furthermore, over 90% of medical services that exist in the region lack any medical workers and the majority also do not have electricity and running water. The disparities in medical attention are a catalyst for the extraordinarily high positive rate in the Amazon region, which has reached 15.75%.

Decades of under-investment in public healthcare, combined with the skepticism of modern medicine, mean many are not receiving standard treatments like oxygen therapy to treat severe virus cases. Traditional medicine has become the first line of defense against the pandemic in these communities and has compelled many Indigenous groups to utilize ancestral remedies to fight COVID-19 in Peru.

Traditional Medicine to Fight COVID-19 in Peru

Throughout history, traditional medicine has been a source of medical treatment for a plethora of diseases. In Peru, local people rely primarily on traditional medicine, while Western medicine is ancillary. Consequently, inclusive mobilization of traditional medicine resources is important for more effective control of COVID-19. Western medicine is generally fixated on an individual patient’s illness, while Indigenous healers have a more holistic approach to medicine that focuses on the individual’s personal relationships and the natural world.

Traditional medicine offers a key opportunity to fight against COVID-19 in Peru’s rural communities. The contribution of traditional medicine and healers in the management of COVID-19 in Peru has the scope to enhance health initiatives and medical care services. Local plants, such as buddleja globosa, or locally known as “matico,” are being used by the Shipibo people, who are one of the largest ethnic groups in Peru’s Amazon region, to treat symptoms of COVID-19. This plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. A combination of Indigenous medicine and Western medications, such as paracetamol, are acting as substitutes for typical treatments for the virus as Indigenous communities fight to lessen the burden of the pandemic with limited resources.

Providing Solutions

Several organizations are working to combat COVID-19 in Peru. WiRED International has joined forces with Project Amazonas (PA) to train community health workers and create a sustainable health database for the region. Based on World Health Organization standards, they implemented a comprehensive program in Iquitos. The curriculum consists of a myriad of training modules to better equip community health workers to fight and contain infectious diseases. PA and WiRED also collaborated to create an online patient-record database that can be accessed without the internet. The information collected can then be uploaded to the national health database to bring the needs of the Indigenous communities to the government’s and health leader’s attention.

Sinergias, a Colombian nonprofit organization, created an intercultural, multi-pronged approach to fight COVID-19 in the Amazon. The organization is collaborating with local communities and governments to create and implement health guidelines for rural areas that fuse traditional and Western medicine approaches. Additionally, Sinergias has joined the effort to create an Amazonian Health Observatory. This observatory provides reliable information about COVID-19 and has the potential to expand to monitor and document the region’s overall health.

Strengthening local health systems and improving Indigenous populations’ access to resources is pertinent to easing the burden of the COVID-19 in Peru. Some populations are experiencing relief from COVID-19 symptoms with a combination of traditional and Western medicine. Combating COVID-19 in a medically plural society has its challenges, yet implementing effective solutions is possible with diligence and collaboration.

– Samantha Johnson
Photo: Flickr