Mission Column July 28, 2021
The excitement of many following the easing of New York State’s Covid restrictions is almost palpable. Walk into any grocery or department store and you will see more people than not wandering the aisles as they do their shopping, going both directions and with no face coverings. While some still choose to wear masks for personal, health, or other reasons, many people are fully embracing the return to normalcy that so many have craved.
This ability is owed, at least in part, to the sanitizing, personal protective equipment (ppe), and vaccinations that we in the United States have had the privilege to have in abundance. Other, poorer, countries have not been so lucky.
In the country of Nicaragua, the Covid situation has become increasingly worse over the past year. There is no known vaccine available to the public. Small, unsanitary shacks in the barrios often house extended families, making it nearly impossible for those living there to spread out. This becomes particularly dangerous in the case that a family member becomes ill. When the sick are referred from their local clinic to a hospital, they are often unable to make it to the city where the hospitals are located, even if doing so is the only thing that will keep them alive. While the people of Nicaragua are doing their best to social distance, wear masks, and stay safe, the lack of access to medical care and the vast gulf between the rich and poor often makes a positive diagnosis a death sentence.
In Ecuador the situation is no better. Vaccines are slowly becoming readily available for the general population; however political corruption has made equal distribution a very difficult task. Citizens are only allowed to leave their shacks Tuesday through Friday to prevent spread of the disease. Many of the poorer population make their money by selling items in the streets. This new requirement, therefore, does not allow them to make nearly enough money to provide themselves with the bare essentials, such as food and water, ppe notwithstanding. As in Nicaragua, there is a lack of access to running water and ppe, which makes it almost impossible for both citizens and healthcare workers to protect themselves from contracting the virus. The situation is so dire that many are stealing the coffins of the predeceased to bury their own loved ones.
While we in the United States, and many other first world countries, are seeing a decrease in Covid cases, many of the world’s poorer countries are seeing the exact opposite. As we embrace the return to our pre-Covid normalcy, it is important to remember that this pandemic is a global crisis. Many of our brothers and sisters not only continue to suffer, but are suffering now more than ever. We cannot leave them to suffer alone.
(Information for this article is courtesy of Sister Cindy Sullivan, BVM of the Lenity Project and Sister Debbie Blow, OP of North Country Mission of Hope.)