23 Sep Family Relief Project report
The global pandemic has greatly affected Bolivia’s already fragile economic and social situation. Most Bolivians are employed in casual labour and the Bolivian healthcare system has collapsed. The government has closed the education system for the academic year, meaning that most Bolivian children will have no further access to education this year. The collaborating projects in Red del Sur have expressed concern that many families will not be able to afford to send their children to school next year. They also are worried about an increase in domestic violence and abuse.
In Cochabamba, the public healthcare system has collapsed, and private hospitals are also overwhelmed by demand. The crematorium system has also collapsed under demand, leading to corpses being kept in homes or left on the streets. In addition, there have been widespread roadblocks and protests across the country due to the postponing of the election date. This has led to an escalation of food and fuel prices in Cochabamba.
Essential medical supplies, such as oxygen, have not been able to be delivered. The rubbish collection in Cochabamba has also stopped due to roadblocks and this has led to an accumulation of rubbish on the streets and concern about the contamination risks.
The current social uncertainty and economic hardship is set to continue over the next few months due to the pending political elections. There are more protests, roadblocks and food shortages expected in the country. For the poorest families in Cochabamba, the combination of escalating food prices and no or little work will mean that they will struggle to survive. These families cannot afford to stay in their home, even though selling goods on the streets puts them at risk of catching COVID-19. It is an impossible choice between trying to earn enough to feed their families and knowing that if they get sick there is no public healthcare system to treat them.
The Urgent need for help
The foundation Pintar en Bolivia was granted a fund from Arcaid charity to provide urgent food donations and personal protection equipment to 25 families in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Pintar en Bolivia collaborated closely with Mosoj Runitas, a centre in Southern Cochabamba that provides psychotherapeutic care to boys who have experienced sexual abuse. In order to reach the families most urgently in need of support in the city, the two foundations worked with the ‘Red del Sur’ – a network of 16 social projects in the southern zone of Cochabamba.
The projects within the Red del Sur submitted applications for the families they worked with who desperately needed the donations. The director of Pintar en Bolivia, alongside the social worker from Mosoj Runitas assessed the applications and selected 25 families who were most urgently in need of support. These families were chosen because they have extremely low or no income and are unable to buy basic necessities.
Many of the families have only one wage earner such as a single parent, elder sibling, or grandparent. These wage earners work in low paying, casual sectors that have been seriously affected by the current pandemic and ongoing lockdown measures. For instance, selling food in the street, washing clothes, knitting, and selling clothing items or carrying heavy loads. Many wage earners in the families have found themselves unemployed or unable to work due to the pandemic. Even those who can find some casual work are unable to earn enough to buy food and other necessities for their families.
Pintar en Bolivia provided the most vulnerable families in Cochabamba with essential food donation, a sanitary kit and an educative manual about covid-19 to help them stay afloat and overcome the pandemic’s aftermath.
Each packaged included:
Who did this round of donation impacted?
*Roberto is a single father who has looked after his three children alone since their mother left seven years ago. The family live in a house with one room that is the shared bedroom and kitchen. Roberto supports the family by selling TV antennas and would normally earn about 260USD per month. In 2017 Roberto had to undergo an emergency surgery for a gastric ulcer and he had to take out a loan to pay for the medical costs. Despite his limited economic income, Roberto has always kept up with his monthly repayments. However, due to the current situation, he has only been able to earn 30USD per month.
He has been unable to provide basic necessities for his children or pay his monthly bills.
*In 2019 the mother of family Mamani passed away from cancer and the father abandoned the children. There are eight brother and sisters who are between 2 and 20 years of age. The two eldest siblings, Gabriela and Rodrigo had been supporting the family by selling jelly or ice cream on the street. However, they have been unable to work due to the pandemic, meaning they have no income to buy food. Gabriela also has a young baby to look after.
The donations of food have been very gratefully received by the brothers and sisters because they had been trying to ration the small amount they had left. They are also finding the donations of Personal Protective Equipment very useful because the older siblings are now trying to sell ice cream on the street to earn some income. They are using the hand sanitizer and alcohol spray to protect themselves against infection.
*Helena is a 68-year-old grandmother who has been taking care of her four grandchildren since their parents abandoned them three years ago. Their parents were addicted to alcohol and left the children to go and live in Argentina. Helena has asked them for economic support to buy food for their children during the pandemic, but they said they had no work and couldn’t help.
Helena is the sole provider for the family and normally she earns her living washing clothes, although she struggles with health problems. Helena has struggled to find any work during the pandemic. She said: ‘It is almost impossible to find people who want to pay for washing now.’ Due to the situation, Helena has found it difficult to provide food for her grandchildren and has fallen behind in rent and utilities payments.
Her four grandchildren are aged between 6-12 years old and the foundation who referred them expressed concern that they showed signs of malnutrition. However due to their lack of documentation it is very difficult for them to access public healthcare in Bolivia.
Helena expressed deep gratitude for the food donations, saying it was like they had ‘fallen from heaven’.
*Please note that for privacy reasons, the names have been changed.