“In Bolivia we have a coup, therefore there is no rule of law and there is no access to health, which is a form of government repression of the people. In the last 4 months there has been no plan to confront the pandemic, hospitals have not been equipped, there are no reagents or tests for COVID-19, there are no medicines for treatment, there are no ventilators, and the number of deaths increases alarmingly every day not only because of the virus but also because of the abandonment of the government. The pharmaceutical industry has raised prices of the medicine to the point of making them inaccessible. Dozens of people die on the doorstep of hospitals or on the streets. WE ARE IN AN EMERGENCY, AND WE NEED YOUR HELP!”
This is the message we got from our friends in La Paz, Bolivia.
Bolivia is one of the countries that has greatly suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. About 20,000 more people have died since June than in past years, a vast number in a country of only about 11 million people. The extraordinary rise in deaths, adjusted for its population, is more than twice as high as that of the United States, and far higher than the levels in Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
For the Indigenous peoples, which constitute about a half of the total population, a confluence of vulnerable elder populations, communal ways of living, and limited access to resources means their very existence may be threatened. Respiratory infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and parasites are common among such communities, potentially exacerbating the severity of any COVID-19 cases.
The department of Bani is in the northern part of the country, where the Andes meet the tropical forest and Amazon tributaries weave across hot, humid lowlands. It is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. It is the home of the Tsimane, an Indigenous group of forager-horticulturalists who live in about 100 villages spread across the region. Dr. Pedro Flores who came to Bani with a team of fellow doctors said recently: “The health system, public and private, collapsed…Here in Trinidad most people have a relative, a friend, a neighbor who has died. We’re in a health disaster.”
The Latin America Solidarity Coalition of Western Mass and the Latin America Solidarity Working Group of the Massachusetts Peace Action set the goal of raising $5,000 for medical aid to the indigenous communities in Bolivia. We will send the funds to our friends in Bolivia, who will buy the needed medicine and distribute it to the Indigenous communities they work with.
To learn more about the coup in Bolivia, and the effect COVID-19 has had on the country, please see the following articles: