Guatemala now has over 7,500 cases of coronavirus. There are multiple reports of inadequate hospital staff, food, medicine, and beds in centers attending patients with Covid-19. Promised government economic help and food aid has managed to reach very few of the most desperate in the country. And the virus continues to increase daily, troubling given the severely under-funded health system in Guatemala.
Aside from the virus spread, the economic situation in Guatemala continues to be dire, and even more urgent. In a country where more than 60% of the population lives in poverty, and the country has one of the highest rates of childhood malnutrition in the world. Beginning in March, the government implemented strict quarantine measures; closure of businesses, closing of all public transportation, travel restrictions, and a public curfew. In a society where the majority of the population lives day-to-day in an informal economy, the result of the closure of the country for three months has been absolutely devastating. It is now a common occurrence to see people along the sides of the road waving white flags asking for food donations. Unemployement and poverty are at extremely high levels.
As mentioned in previous posts, the Yabal artisan communities in the regions of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan and Solola, like many rural indigenous communities, have been essentially forgotten by the government during this crisis- and with the closing of public transportation, are without food access, left to fend for themselves.
In the midst of this food emergency, Yabal, along with many other NGOs, community groups, and individuals has responded by providing food and cash donations for struggling families and communities through-out the country. While this crisis has laid bare the disregard of the government for the poorest in the country, it has also, at the same time, inspired amazing generosity and actions from so many people!
Yabal’s food emergency fundraiser, set up to provide food support for our artisan communities during this crisis, continues to raise funds! Because of your generosity, we’ve been able to make a second food drop last week to the 90 families in Pacutama and Chuicutama. We brought out beans, rice, incaparina (fortified nutritional beverage), and soy protein. We were also able to make a cash donation to four artisan families living in Momostenango who we can’t travel to visit, but were in desperate need of food and financial support. Our third artisan community of 14 families in Solola area are also currently in need of food donations as well- but due to the same travel bans, we haven’t been able to get out there yet to bring help. As soon as the travel restrictions lift, we’ll bring food out to them as well. We are keeping in close contact with all our artisan groups to continue to support them as needed as this crisis goes on, week to week.
The situation in Guatemala changes frequently- regulations and quarantine/travel restrictions seem to change suddenly every few days which makes it hard to coordinate and plan ahead for when we can get food to and place weaving orders with our artisan communities. Luckily, we were able to get out with the food last week, as this week we are under another country-wide travel ban. The situation has also been further complicated for our artisan communities in Pacutama and Chuicutama, in the region of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan. As due to on-going violence between groups in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan and Nahuala, the president has ordered a state of siege for all the communities in those two areas. A controversial decision that has forced all residents enclosed in their homes.
Aside from food donations, we continue to work hard to provide weaving orders for our artisans. Although production has been slowed due to travel bans, we are creatively working around the logistical challenges as much as possible with our artisan team. We can’t emphasize enough how important work and product sales are for our artisans right now. For almost ALL of our artisans, Yabal has become one of the sole sources of income for their families during these last three months. In other times, some of our women artisans had husbands or other family members that were able to work in order to collectively cover all the family expenses. But due to travel restrictions, in addition to massive lay-offs and business closings, that is no longer the case. Whenever we are able to bring out food donations to our artisan communities, we also take advantage of the trip to pay women for weavings and to also bring out threads and materials for new orders. If you are able to make a purchase from our web-store, it is very much appreciated!
In the midst of all, we are so happy for the support of our customers and donors and friends. Thank you again for your big hearts, generosity, and solidarity!