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In Peru there are 55 indigenous peoples: 4 in the Andes and 51 in the Amazon. The last census of 2017 established a total population of 2,014,534 people. They form one of the sectors with the least access to basic services: less than half (48%) have a connection to a drainage system, more than 30% do not have permanent, quality drinking water and 75.4% does not have access to health services.


The indigenous peoples of the Andes of Peru take their own security measures in the face of the advance of the pandemic by Covid-19. They have closed their entrances, reactivated the self-defense committees and imposed strict surveillance on their population.


It is a wise move, since the virus has not yet reached their communities and is only present in urban areas. However, the government response and attention to these places is quite limited and needs to be rethought.


The leaders argue that more information is needed and asked the government for a health strategy focused on their context and their communities.


Coronavirus in the Communities of Cusco

In Cusco, the main tourist destination in Peru, the communities chose to close access to tourists for fear of Covid-19. For this reason, last Tuesday, March 17, nine tourists from Poland were prevented from entering the Machiguenga community of Kirigueti, in Lower Urubamba.


Eight indigenous peoples live in Cusco in its Andean and jungle territory, representing 27.8% of the population. Although the most numerous town is Quechua, there are seven other towns that live in the jungle, in the province of La Convencion, distributed in 64 communities.


The situation is similar in Megantoni, which has closed its borders to foreigners and tourists.


In this region, as in the rest of the areas where indigenous peoples live, the lack of information in the native language is worrying.


As in the Amazon, in Cusco the threat of the pandemic is exacerbated by limited basic services. The latest census of indigenous communities indicates that 68.3% of the inhabitants of the La Convencion district do not have water inside their homes.


No medical personnel in the community

According to the Ministry of Culture, there are eight indigenous or native peoples in Cusco. Altogether, it is estimated that there are around 335 thousand people, 27% of the inhabitants of that region. However, only 48% of the indigenous population has drainage; and 75% with drinking water. Regarding access to health, 78% have some insurance.


Supply problems

Since then, the situation has become critical for these people who did not have sufficient resources to remain in the city during the quarantine.


Until now, the only attention they have received has been the delivery of baskets with basic products ordered by the government to be delivered to families with fewer resources.


There is no supply of basic supplies. Indigenous peoples are abandoned.


The case of the Willoq community

Last week, the first person from the region that houses Machu Picchu died. Willoq is one of the most traditional communities in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.


The Quechua communities of Ollantaytambo call for urgent health intervention to prevent Covid-19 cases from spreading. Closing access to towns is a protection, but also a risk.


The community member says that he spent three days with the dead man at his home. That they called the authorities, but they did not want to go up to remove the body. That the deceased was a stranger - and emphasizes this term - who arrived in the community of Willoq, Ollantaytambo district, in Cusco, on Monday, April 20. Villagers saw him wandering the streets. Some gave him food and drink. No one knows exactly where he slept that first night, but it is clear that the next day he was taken in by a member of the community.


He found him on the street, pale and short of breath. So she decided to take him home and lay him on a bed so he could rest. He thought he was drunk. The stranger who said he had come from another community did not want to have dinner, but he did drink a lot of water.


The next morning, when he went to see him, the stranger was no longer moving. With a broom he pushed him and he was stiff. Then he called the health authorities, because he did not know what to do. Doctors arrived hours later, and they took a sample that, twenty-four hours later, confirmed that the man who had come from another community to work on the potato harvest died from Covid-19.


But what worries him is that he has infected more people, especially the family that sheltered him at home. That is why all families are being isolated from quarantine.


That same day, municipal staff buried the stranger in the heights of Willoq. They dug a deep hole and put it there.


The man who took him into his house says that the deceased was from Vilcabamba, and this was also verified by the Police. He had arrived in Willoq in a fruit truck to assist in the harvest.

To get to Willoq from Ollantaytambo, the main town in the area, it takes two hours on foot or 45 minutes by car. In this community there is a medical post implemented by a German NGO that, however, stopped working when the pandemic broke out.


Protect the original culture

In Willoq, one of the original communities of the Urubamba valley, 250 families live. Most of them dedicate themselves to planting products such as potatoes, quinoa, corn, peas, or broad beans, and to experiential rural tourism, through lodgings for travelers interested in learning about their culture, dances, and textiles. The men also work as porters, carrying the luggage of the visitors and adventurers who make the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.


Many community members of this basin depend on their work as porters, carrying the luggage of the visitors and adventurers who make the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.


The communal president of Willoq said that, in the absence of prompt attention from the Health sector, they decided to fumigate the town and set up four water basins for the residents to wash their hands frequently. But there is a bigger problem exacerbated by isolation: ending agricultural products and other food to survive.


According to the portal of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), this municipality received S / 206,330 for the acquisition of baskets. Challco says that they have already been distributed, but in the MEF the accrual has not yet appeared, and officially the level of execution of that money is 0%. "They are in the process of uploading the minutes and in all that process," the spokesperson explained.


For the anthropologist Fernando Astete, it is urgent that the requests of the population of the Willoq-Patacancha basin be met, since they are original Quechua peoples that keep Inca traditions alive.


How can we help the people of Willoq and other communities?

As a tourism company that works with many of these people as porters or cooks, we have a program that connects donators with the poorest communities of Cusco enabling them some resources in their development.


The program consists of provide a community with basic products. For example, food supply to survive, warm clothing, nappies, medicines… It also means to provide them with a chance of information to protect themselves from the coronavirus pandemic.


This is an option for private companies or persons to contribute to projects helping a whole community. Another option is to donate money to buy first need products. Nevertheless, one does not need to contribute to a lot. In our opinion, every grain counts!

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