By Aura Cúc Guarcas, Health and Hygiene Education Officer, Water For People Guatemala.
Versión en español aquí.
In March of 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Guatemala, prompting the government to implement measures to curb the prevalence of the virus in the country. Measures included limiting travel between departments, curfews, and the closure of the country. The pandemic in the country demonstrated the lack of adequate sanitation systems and the difficulty in accessing safe water for consumption in communities, families, and Public Institutions (schools and health services), mainly in rural areas.
With the crisis and the increase in cases, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services have been overwhelmed. In addition, the lack of handwashing habits at critical times has been a challenge to limit the spread of the disease.
Amid this global crisis, Water For People committed to the constant search for and generation of alternatives and practical solutions to bring WASH services to the most vulnerable families and communities. We’ve managed to increase service levels, respond to the emergency, and contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 – universal and sustainable water and sanitation services.
COVID-19 Situation at the National Level
According to the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance dashboard, the national COVID-19 situation, updated on April 27, 2021, there are 16,902 active cases, 224,621 accumulated cases, 200,241 estimated recovered cases and an estimated 7,478 cases deceased.1
Current Situation in the Department of Quiché
Data recorded up to April 27, 2021, include:
- 360 estimated active cases
- 4,646 cumulative cases
- 4,170 estimated recovered cases
- 118 deceased cases
- 437.1 cumulative incidence (cases per 100,000 inhabitants)
- 10.9 mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 inhabitants) and 2.5% fatality
These data reflect an increasing trend of cases among the population, with higher incidence in urban areas.
Impact of the Pandemic in Guatemala
According to economic growth projections made by the Bank of Guatemala (BANGUAT), domestic economic activity registered a drop of around -2.5% in 2020. A recovery is projected for 2021, with a growth of around 3.0%, with a tolerance margin of +/-1.0% in the projection for both years.2
Although the pandemic has had an impact on the economy of all sectors, many Guatemalans living in rural areas face obstacles to accessing quality healthcare. In Quiché, the majority of the population belongs to the K’iche’ ethnic group and many consider themselves vulnerable and disadvantaged. The pandemic will lead to greater investment and efforts by the authorities to minimize risks among these groups.
Adaptation and Advocacy to toward Reaching Everyone
At the beginning of the pandemic, the closure of the country forced us to consider the risk of not complying with a proposal or commitments to donors and delaying scheduled activities. It was a challenge to seek more financial resources when the situation was increasingly difficult, and the program was not complying with what had been planned.
However, it was also an opportunity to think about the challenges we face and think about other strategies and alternatives to reach the population that needed our support. This entailed extra efforts such as remote meetings and coordination, design of educational and auditory materials, identification of strategic allies, and the review and analysis of contextual data which involved commitment from colleagues in the organization and people in the communities. The exercise was worth it, and it allowed us to mobilize resources and leverage the challenges faced at that time.
Vulnerability, New Challenges, and Opportunities in Quiché
We began a search for strategic alliances and development of proposals to help minimize the effects of the pandemic on the population of Quiché and mobilize resources to increase the levels of WASH services. Potential partners for this collaborative work were identified:
One Drop: We influenced the mobilization of financial resources for three water projects and the improvement of WASH services in healthcare facilities in the department of Quiché. It impacts a population of 20,000 users in public healthcare institutions and a population of 1,480 with a water project. We mobilized a total of US$71,138 from October to December 2020.
EDUCO: Water For People and EDUCO are implementing a project in response to the emergency called "Clean hands, healthy children and communities," a project for the prevention of respiratory diseases related to COVID-19. It involved the construction and rehabilitation of water and sanitation infrastructure, capacity building of the Municipal WASH Offices (OMAS in Spanish) and Ministries of Education and Health, and communication and awareness campaigns in four municipalities of the department of Quiché. With the mobilization of €64,301.24, a population of 778 people were impacted directly at six educational centers and 6,367 at two health posts. Communication and awareness campaigns indirectly impacted a population of 5,967 people.
Nexos Locales (Local Linkages in English): The implementation of the "Strengthening community capacities" project is in process with a mobilization of US$40,211. It will impact a population of 160 community plumbers, 16 municipal plumbers, ocho environmental sanitation inspectors, and ocho OMAS technicians, for a total of 192.
Water For People in Guatemala, in coordination with partners and allies, face new challenges each day, including the management of more resources with the commitment to continue contributing to SDG 6 and reaching Everyone in the municipalities where we work.
1 Covid-19 status dashboard: https://tablerocovid.mspas.gob.gt/