There are few of us who have not been impacted in some way by the Covid-19 pandemic. In poverty-stricken Mayan communities, however, the combined impact of the virus and the measures put in place to combat it are creating a complex and potentially devastating threat to survival.
The first case of Covid-19 was announced in Guatemala on the 13th March. With a health care system that was already under-resourced, President Alejandro Giammattei had to act fast. Within days, a range of measures were announced to try and prevent the spread of the virus. Borders were closed to non-residents travelling from abroad. All schools, universities, public areas and non-essential businesses were shut down. Public transport was suspended and a national curfew, whereby citizens were prohibited from leaving their homes between the hours of 4pm and 4am, were imposed. Those who ventured out onto the streets during the allocated times without a face mask risk a hefty fine.
This response was praised by many as a strong and proactive attempt to protect the country from the attack of this invisible enemy. However, it has now been over two months since these restrictions were initially imposed. As time goes on, these actions that were initially intended as protective measures have generated a range of unintentional problems for those without the means to provide for the basic care needs of their families.
Many of these problems are logistical. According to the Guatemalan National Institute of Statistics, 46% of the population live in rural indigenous communities; almost 80% live in extreme poverty. The closure of small businesses has meant that people who previously worked hand-to-mouth in informal settings are now struggling to feed their families. The lack of public transport is forcing families in rural areas to travel on foot to obtain supplies or to attend health clinics. For some this is next to impossible within the permitted time frame. In addition, many people in isolated indigenous communities don’t have access to face masks and are afraid to leave their homes for supplies when they risk receiving a fine that they can’t afford to pay. While all eyes are focused on those fighting the pandemic from the frontlines, many in Mayan communities are silently struggling with starvation and malnutrition.
Other problems relate to environment and health. The government has advised that the best way to avoid contracting the virus is to wash our hands regularly. However, many people in Mayan communities do not have access to clean water to be able to wash their hands. Many also belong to groups identified by the World Health Organisation as being particularly vulnerable to the virus. For instance, 70% of the Mayan population suffer extreme levels of malnutrition, over 70% suffer from some level of obesity due to lack of nutritional food, and 45% suffer from diabetes.
The reality is that the people most at risk of being severely impacted by the Covid-19 virus are those least equipped to fight it.
In order to try and alleviate this situation, Trama Textiles is currently collaborating with other local organisations to raise funds to provide essential services for these families in rural communities. We are working together to distribute food packages and face masks to families in need, as well as to circulate public health advice translated into Mayan languages.
We cannot do this alone. Mayan people believe that all who work for the common welfare will be embraced by it in turn. We would be immensely grateful if you could help us to provide this common welfare to the families that desperately need it. If it is within your means, we will gladly accept donations towards this cause through the link below.