17 April, 2020
by Julio Letona Chávez,
Director of Prevention Programs, Community Education & Development at
ASSADE Guatemala

Writing this report gives us courage, feeling you all with us and knowing that there are more great hearts in this struggle.

As another week of quarantine begins, pressure and stress increase on a daily basis due to the uncertainty of the future to come. But our will and conviction maintain some balance to face the current crisis of COVID-19. As an inclusive primary health care center in this region, we are developing different activities to support communities to be safe during these difficult times. 

One of the first things that we thought about when the pandemic started was the great challenge of facing this problem, because we knew that these communities have been forgotten for decades and it will be necessary to increase our existing efforts and work. We also thought about how all these years working to create adequate models of health care for communities is key during this time because communities now have to build their own frameworks to protect life in the face of COVID-19.

The health care center of ASSADE belongs to communities and it is part of the construction of a community framework to reclaim the right to health care. We concentrated our first efforts on protecting these facilities, because one of our main goals is to continue serving everyday health problems of communities during this crisis. Our second main goal is to promote and create awareness about COVID-19, as we have seen how powerful education as a tool for prevention can be. 

The first protective measure for the ASSADE facilities was to add disinfection stations at the main entrance and in each clinic and area of care… As the crisis progresses, more and more aspects are needed to be covered and a great part of the future is uncertain. As an organization, we recognize that it will be necessary to reorganize our way of working according to the situation in order to continue providing adequate care for these communities. The main aspects to be considered are: disinfection of facilities, protection of staff and patients, transportation limitations, acquisition of supplies and medications, and community outreach, among others.

With this brief report we would like to share some moments of a week during quarantine here. Writing this report gives us courage, feeling you all with us and knowing that there are more great hearts in this struggle.

Day 1:

The ASSADE facilities are open, but starting first thing in the morning it is required that patients wait in line to pass through disinfection and temperature control.

“We thank God that we have this place to come and get relief in these moments.”

– Maria Siquinajay, ASSADE patient

Day 2:

When patients are inside the facilities they receive basic sanitary measures and information about COVID-19 before continuing on to clinics.

“During the quarantine at my home, it is desperate to be locked up, so I took out a carpet to put in my garden and lie down in the middle of the trees. I start to remember, my father always told me that the disease is a wake-up call from nature.”

– Lucía Usen, ASSADE Team Member

Day 3:

As part of ASSADE prevention and community outreach activities, one of the first measures was the preparation of kits for families with basic medications and hygiene supplies to deliver at a community training to be prepare families to face COVID-19.

“I’m glad to be involved over the last few years as a Community Opportunity Engagement Advocate in my community. Now that we have COVID-19 I feel that all the experience will help me to be useful for my community and do something.”

Yeny Lopez, ASSADE Team Member

Day 4:

The staff who live outside of this region need to pass through check controls and internal borders. In order to cross, it’s necessary to request an official permit. Obtaining this permit was not easy at all — even in the midst of this crisis the government bureaucracy is a headache, and we have to fight against the historically rooted problems in this country.

“We need to keep the joy in this situation. As we do not know what is happening, it helps to keep our hearts happy and strong.”

– Felipe Tahual, ASSADE Patient 

Day 5:

The main activities at the ASSADE clinic continue working, with exception of the dentist area. The recovery rooms are small, so it is necessary to use just two beds at the time in each, and talk with families about only accompanying one person at a time. The number of patients seeking care for respiratory problems has increased during these weeks.

“The heart of the organization is indelible. We face a difficult situation and I firmly believe that it is during these moments in which we need to bring forces beyond us to be on the frontlines of the struggle, with passion, love and humanism.”

– Maria Letona, Founder of ASSADE

Day 6:

Pregnancy and chronic disease control activities continue functioning with additional precautions. For example, ultrasound monitoring requires more measures, such as the mandatory use of gloves for staff and users, and passing through two disinfection points inside the facilities. The patients with chronic diseases that live outside the region are receiving the medication with motorcycle home delivery.

“I’m scared. I fear for my children, because as an adult one thinks if I get sick I have already lived, but the children have not. I’m also scared for the economy, children should always eat and I’m terrified of not having food to feed them.”

– Lidia Chipir, ASSADE Community Member

Thanks to the quick action and generosity of the GoPhil community, initial Rapid Response Funds have already been distributed to ASSADE and are making an impact on their day-to-day activities. These emergency funds help ensure the ASSADE team has the supplies, medicines, equipment and resources to protect themselves and these communities. 

The needs of GoPhil partners and communities are growing with each passing day as the crisis evolves. Let’s keep the momentum, compassion and love for GoPhil partners and communities flowing!