Now more then ever your purchases go further. Learn more about our Covid-19 relief efforts in the amazon.

Final Report on CACE COVID Community Relief Campaign

December 30, 2020

Final Report on CACE COVID Community Relief Campaign

FINAL PROJECT REPORT

DATE: December 27, 2020

PROJECT: COVID Relief Campaign for Communities in Loreto, Peru

BACKGROUND: The Center for Amazon Community Ecology (CACE) is a non-profit organization based in Lemoyne, PA that helps people in the Peruvian Amazon to create sustainable livelihoods, promote forest conservation and build stronger traditional communities.  In response to the unprecedented impact of the COVID pandemic on the health and economy of people in these communities, CACE launched its COVID Community Relief Campaign to provide medicines, food, basic supplies, support for medical services for residents of 16 CACE partner villages in Loreto, Peru.  We received a $17,000 grant from one organization (that wishes to remain anonymous), a second grant for $8,000 from the Sisters of Mercy, and many other donations from individuals to support this effort.  This report was prepared to show the main accomplishments and challenges in this campaign for these donors and other CACE supporters.

CAMPAIGN ACTIVITIES AND PROGRESS:

A) Identify recipients and needs

Prior to the pandemic, CACE worked primarily with artisans in our partner communities.  To launch this campaign, we consulted with people in charge of medical clinics in the region and others responsible for basic level health care in villages lacking such clinics to understand who they served and what their priority needs for medicines were to treat their residents.  We next consulted with community leaders to identify how many heads of household were in each village.  In this campaign’s first round, we prioritized attention to deliver food and some basic supplies to artisan families in our partner communities and medicines to health centers and community health workers that would serve these communities.  In the second round, we delivered additional medicines to the same health centers and expanded the delivery of aid packages to all families within our main partner communities and select families in other places with whom we had close relationships. 

B) Safety protocols for preparing, sending and receiving relief supplies

  1. Materials that were purchased were brought back to a CACE facility were immediately isolated.
  2. When beginning to prepare supplies for delivery, CACE personnel carefully washed their hands with soap and water and put on masks. Supplies were disinfected in a multi-stage process. Package surfaces were first cleaned with a cloth soaked in bleach. The surfaces of boxes, bags or other containers were then sprayed with alcohol and dried with a clean cloth.  This second process was repeated.
  3. The inside and outside of boxes or other shipping containers were disinfected and dried. Each shipping box was sealed with plastic. These shipping boxes were in turn placed in large plastic bags and isolated prior to pick up for transport to their destinations.
  4. The person receiving the packages moved them to a secure location where they washed their hands and disinfected the plastic bags by spraying them with alcohol or wiping the surface with bleach water. If the package needed to be moved again before arriving at its final destination, these cleaning procedures were repeated.
  5. The packages were only opened in their ultimate location which were health centers, community facility or private homes. The package was only opened by people designated to handle the contents.  They first washed their hands before removing and discarding the outer plastic bag.  When the packages were removed, they were disinfected with alcohol or bleach water.  The products inside the packages were then individually disinfected before sharing with household members.   

C) Summary of expenses in $US in the first and second rounds of the campaign by category

Category

1st Round

2nd Round

Total

Materials and logistics

                319  

                   492  

               811  

Medical support

                284  

 

               284  

Medicines

             2,118  

                5,577  

           7,695  

Staples

             7,223  

                8,889  

         16,112  

Stipends

                434  

                   226  

               660  

Transportation

                761 

                1,195  

           1,956  

Grand Total

          11,140  

             16,377  

         27,518  

 

The table shows that the expenses for the campaign were $11,140 for the first phase and $16,377 for the second phase making a total of $27,518.  The majority of these expenses were covered by a $17,000 grant from one organization that wishes to remain anonymous and an $8,000 grant from the Caribbean and South American chapter of the Sisters of Mercy organization.  The remaining expenses for these items listed above and salaries of CACE staff people involved in this effort were primarily covered by donations to CACE received through the GlobalGiving platform.

D) Distribution of medicines

We spent a total of $7,695 to purchase medicines that were distributed to community partners during the campaign.  These medicines were sent to six locations.  Most medicines were sent to the villages of Brillo Nuevo and Puca Urquillo since the health clinics served 15 different native communities in the Ampiyacu River region.  All of these communities are all affiliated with the Federation of Native Communities of the Ampiyacu (FECONA) – the largest and oldest ally of CACE in Loreto.  The second reason that most medicines were sent to the Ampiyacu was that the health clinics in these villages are staffed by medical professionals so they had the training, facilities and infrastructure to safely store and to properly administer the widest range of medicines (including some prescription drugs) to the greatest number of people.  The third factor governing this distribution was that COVID hit this region very hard with infection rates ranging from 70 to 90% of the population of some communities.

Some basic (non-prescription) medicines were sent to partners in other villages where they were handled by a community health volunteer (in San Francisco, Amazonas and Chino) or the leader of an artisan group in a small town (Jenaro Herrera).  These supplies were much appreciated by people in these communities to help them directly treat lower level COVID symptoms with the knowledge (or at least hope) they could get higher level medical assistance from health clinics or hospitals in or near their community.

E) Distribution of aid packages to families

We spent $16,112 to purchase basic staples for 377 families in the first round (value $7,223) and 564 families in the second round (value $8,889).  Each family package contained 35 items that provided 5 kg. of rice, 5 kg. of sugar, 4 liters of cooking oil, 4 kg. of noodles, 4 kg. of salt, and 5 bars of soap.  This package was configured to help feed a family of five (2 adults with 3 children) for about two weeks.  While some salt was used in cooking, most of it was used to preserve fish and/or game meat for personal consumption or sale in local markets.  The all-purpose soap was used for personal bathing, washing clothes and general house-cleaning.  Each package was labeled with the name of a specific family with one person designated to observe the safety protocols described above to receive and process their supplies.

The average cost of one complete family package was $19.21 in the first round and $11.00 in the second round.  The basic package was lower in the second round since we had established positive relations with wholesale vendors and supplies were more available than they were during the first months of the pandemic.  This lower cost allowed us to expand the number of families receiving these aid packages.

The table below lists the number of families that received a package of staples at each location in the first and second rounds and the total number of packages delivered to each place.  In the first round, artisan families received their packages first but packages were delivered to other families in their communities one to two weeks later.  In the second round, lower costs for the staples, better communication and more logistic options allowed us to send a second package of staples to all of the families who received them in the first round plus an additional 187 families who live mostly in four Ampiyacu communities we were not able to help in the first round.

Location

Area

Round 1

Round 2

Total

Brillo Nuevo (Bora)

Río Ampiyacu

45

55

100

Ancon Colonia (Bora)

Río Ampiyacu

13

13

26

Pucaurquillo Bora (Bora)

Río Ampiyacu

63

69

132

Pucaurquillo Huitoto (Huitoto)

Río Ampiyacu

43

43

86

Santa Lucia de Pro (Yagua)

Río Ampiyacu

1

34

35

San José de Piri (Yagua)

Rio Ampiyacu

0

46

46

Huitotos de Estiron (Huitoto)

Rio Ampiyacu

0

19

19

Barrio Sargento Lores (Bora)

Rio Ampiyacu

0

24

24

San Francisco (campesino)

Río Marañon

81

81

162

Amazonas (Cocama)

Río Marañon

60

66

126

Puerto Miguel (campesino)

Río Marañon

2

2

4

Nauta (town)

Nauta

1

1

2

Chino (campesino)

Río Tahuayo

52

52

104

Tamshiyacu (town)

Río Amazonas

1

1

2

Jenaro Herrera (town)

Río Ucayali

9

9

18

Iquitos (city)

Amazon

6

6

12

TOTAL

 

377

564

941

 

F) Packaging and delivery of relief supplies

We spent a total of $3,426 to pack and deliver the medicines and staples to our partners.  This included spending $811 on materials used to clean and pack the supplies and provide some food to people contracted to help with these tasks.  The main materials were bags, boxes, plastic wrap, tape, alcohol, bleach, and safety equipment.  We spent $660 to pay three different people to assist with packing supplies.  We spent a total of $1,956 to procure and deliver the supplies to their recipient communities.  This included the cost for local deliveries in Iquitos as well as the cost of delivering supplies in taxis and boats.

The table below shows that procuring and preparing the aid supplies for delivery involved 130 total days of work from seven people.  In the first round, Yully Rojas from CACE was the initial coordinator of these activities with some paid assistance from three other people.  Andrea Isuiza from CACE took over coordination duties half-way through the first round when Yully became ill with COVID.  CACE contracted Jackmen Lopez to be one of the paid helpers in the first round.  In the second round, his new employer Camino Verde (an NGO that works closely with CACE) allowed him to dedicated part of his time to supporting the COVID campaign.  The three CACE staff people dedicated a combined total of 79 days to support the campaign equivalent to an in-kind contribution to the campaign from their salaries of $2,600. 

Source

1st Round

2nd Round

Total

Camino Verde (1 person)

 

12

12

CACE staff (3 people)

36

43

79

Paid help (4 people)

29

10

39

Total

65

65

130

 

G) Support for emergency medical transport

While most people who got sick from COVID stayed in their villages or sought treatment in the nearest town, some people needed more advanced treatment in the city.  We spent $284 to help pay the boat passage for six people traveling from three villages in the Ampiyacu to go to regional hospital in Iquitos and help pay for tests and medicines for three people at this hospital. 

COMMENTS FROM THE CAMPAIGN

When our COVID Community Campaign began, the CACE staff first focused on finding medicines. In the early weeks of the outbreak, the price for many medicines increased by ten-fold or more.  It took a lot of time to make contacts, calls, visits, and chat with managers at numerous pharmacies to find ones that had sufficient medicines available to fill our orders at reasonable prices.  We were proud we were finally able to get most of the medicines we wanted at or only slightly above normal market prices.

Visiting pharmacies and businesses to buy merchandise during the peak of the pandemic was an intense experience when many people were getting sick and government restrictions to slow its spread only seemed marginally effective.  Many streets were closed or had limited access.  Entering commercial areas to shop or getting money from a bank required a long wait in line.  We had to wear a mask anytime we went out and still do today.  We felt lucky to find wholesale dealers willing to deliver to the CACE house.

All members of our CACE team got sick in May and/or June.  When our Program Coordinator Yully Rojas recovered sufficiently from her illness, she began to coordinate our COVID Relief campaign.  She bought almost all supplies for the first round and worked with four different helpers to package and deliver the medicines and food packages to about 200 different artisan families.  In August, Yully got sick again – this time with a confirmed case of COVID.  We now suspect that her earlier illness may have been dengue fever since this was raging through Iquitos before COVID arrived.  She got steadily worse and needed bottled oxygen 24 hours a day for three full weeks to get through the most serious phase of the virus.  Given the large number of people in Iquitos who had become gravely ill or died from COVID, we were deeply concerned about her.  Fortunately, she responded well to her treatments and returned to most of her duties by early October.  Our other staff people who had milder cases recovered well, but they, too, suffered periodic discomfort for more than a month after the peak of their illness.

CACE and our community partners were also fortunate that shortly before the time when Yully got sick for the second time, CACE had contracted Andrea Isuiza to take over some CACE administrative duties and develop our new store to sell crafts in Iquitos.  Since she had previous experience supporting a relief campaign to deliver supplies to other native communities in the region, we asked her to step in as the campaign coordinator.  Andrea worked with other members of the CACE team and a few helpers to buy, prepare and deliver supplies to an additional 177 families in the first round of the campaign.  She coordinated most of the second round of the campaign with assistance from Tulio and Yully when she recovered enough to help.

The early months of the campaign were very stressful for our team, the people of Iquitos and our partners in the villages.  Each person on our staff knew scores of people who got sick from COVID and at least ten friends, relatives and/or acquaintances who died from it.  A strict quarantine was imposed in Iquitos (and all of Peru) in mid-March and was only partially relaxed in November. 

The good news is that COVID’s critical threats to the health and survival of people in our partner communities dramatically declined in September.  While there have been dramatic surges of the virus in many parts of the world, infection rates have remained very low in Loreto and most of Peru. 

It seems miraculous that given the high infection rates in the communities, relatively few people died from COVID.  Perhaps some peoples’ use of traditional plant medicines strengthened their immune system and gave them extra resistance to the virus.  The livelihoods of everyone in these communities, however, was drastically affected.  Families in most villages were able to provide some food for themselves from their fields, rivers, and forest, but they had little or no money to buy some of the staple items they buy to supplement their diet. The basic foods and soap that we sent to families in our partner villages were greatly appreciated, but they did not last long.

It is hard to quantify the economic and environmental impact of the pandemic on these communities, but we sense it has been very high.  While hunting is a regular way that men in forest-based communities provide some food for their families and earn money by selling game-meat in local markets, the absence of any other source of income during the pandemic has led to more intensive hunting – probably beyond locally established quotas with intense pressure on wildlife such as paca, deer and turtles.  Women artisans who were not able to sell finished crafts during the pandemic have been selling dozens and now possibly hundreds of kilos of chambira fiber to buyers who resell this prized raw material to artisans in the city.  While these activities provided some cash during these desperate times, it will probably take many years for wild populations of these animals and trees to recover.

We are happy that we are now at least able to start visiting our partners again to slowly resume our program activities.  Our financial resources are greatly depleted as well since COVID forced the cancellation of every major festival and fair where we typically sold our partners’ crafts.  We have used this period to start building up our online store, but our total craft sales this year will only be about 10 to 15% what they have been in recent years.  We will forgo our more expensive artisan training workshops for at least the first six months of 2021 and focus on bringing artisans together to complete orders for specific crafts under the guidance of a very experienced artisan teacher and facilitator.  We know that we will also need to invest a lot to help artisans build back their chambira palm resources in communities where they were sacrificed for emergency income.    

The Amazon region and the rest of the world has gone through some very hard times in the past nine months.  While people are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a vaccine, the COVID nightmare is not yet over for many.  It is important to report, however, that many of our partners have expressed their heartfelt thanks for the food and medicines they received that helped them cope with the peak of this crisis.  We feel tremendous gratitude to the Sisters of Mercy and other donors for giving us the opportunity to deliver this assistance when we initially only felt a horrible helplessness when COVID began to ravage our partners in May.

CAMPAIGN PHOTOS, VIDEOS AND TESTIMONIES

See photos of some of the medicines, staple supplies, packing process and receipt by community partners on a CACE Google Drive folder called CACE COVID Campaign Photos.  This folder has been shared with the principle people from your organization.  Please understand that we relied on delivery people and community members to take photos of materials in transit to the communities during most of the campaign.  We had hoped to get better images during our final delivery of supplies to the Ampiyacu which was accompanied by our communications coordinator Tulio Davila, but his cell phone went into the river when a small boat he was traveling in with many other people almost capsized in a sudden major rainstorm.  He fortunately saved his main camera which contained some video interviews he conducted with a few people discussing their experiences with COVID and feelings about the CACE campaign.  Please see a 3-minute video called Silence based on this material on our YouTube channel AmazonEcology.

In the past month we have interviewed more partners discussing how they and their communities dealt with the pandemic.  As we start returning to our partner communities in the coming months, we plan to ask more of our partners about their experiences with COVID, what lessons they learned and how they hope to move forward.  We will share excerpts of these materials with you as we edit and translate them.  We hope to produce a short video to compile the best of these which will be shared with donors and the general public when ready.  




Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in News

Amazon Ecology Online Rainforest Puzzle

September 17, 2020

Continue Reading

Catalog of bird crafts made by artisans from the communities of the Marañon...

June 08, 2018

Catalog of bird crafts made by artisans from the communities of the Marañon basin in Peru. You can see more in our online store: https://amazon-forest-store2.myshopify.com/

At the same time, if you are interested in buying any of these crafts do not hesitate to leave us a message.

Continue Reading

Some of our favorites.

May 24, 2018

Center for Amazon Community Ecology
amazon-forest-store2.myshopify.com

Continue Reading