Spring 2020: In Chocó, the Corona pandemic meets a precarious health system. In the region with 500,000 inhabitants, there is only one hospital with intensive care beds at this time, in the capital Quibdó, which is mostly at capacity. Given the poor infrastructure, it is also impossible for most of the population to get to the capital from the remote areas by water and land in an emergency situation. Istmina – the second largest town in the Chocó – is located about two hours by car on bad roads from Quibdó and has a hospital, but it only offers basic care, which makes it impossible to isolate covid patients and provide them with intensive care. In addition to a lack of medical equipment, Istmina also lacked enough medical specialists at the beginning of the pandemic.
The pandemic caused another acute problem in Chocó: a nationwide hard lockdown for several weeks/months meant an existential hardship especially for the 40% single mothers and soon led to malnutrition among their children.
Together with the local people, CASA HOGAR responded to the conditions in the Chocó with a two-part package of measures: the “Cabeza de Hogar” project and the three-phase “UBUNTU” mission.
340 food packages have fed
1,700 people in Chocó
„Cabeza de Hogar“ project
Food parcels for needy families in the lockdown
Risk of infection or hunger – this is the decision many Chocoan families will face during the lockdown in summer 2020. They are supposed to stay at home, but then many of them lose their livelihoods with their daily work. Few of them have savings or receive state aid.
Medical equipment and training for the fight against Corona
In order to be prepared against Covid-19, appropriate medical equipment is needed on the one hand, and trained personnel on the other. In both respects, Istmina and its rural surroundings were completely inadequate at the beginning of the pandemic. With the UBUNTU mission, CASA HOGAR wanted to provide the Chocoan population with tools to fight the pandemic in the short term, but above all in the long term and sustainably. Therefore, in addition to the procurement of urgently needed medical equipment, the main focus was on personnel support and further training for local medical staff.
The mission targeted beneficiaries in Istmina, in rural areas and again specifically children and families in rural areas in three phases. It involved Professor Laureano Quintero, MD (medical director of Centro Medico Imbanaco and professor of trauma surgery at the Universidad del Valle in Cali), the Diocese of Istmina-Tadó (our main partner in Chocó), and the authorities in Istmina.
UBUNTU – Phase I
The first step was to improve patient care in Istmina. For example, we have equipped the public hospital with the necessary medical equipment and trained more than 30 medical professionals in dealing with the coronavirus free of charge.
UBUNTU – Phase II
In Phase II der Mission UBUNTU haben vor allem abgelegenere Gemeinden Medikamente und Verbrauchsmaterialien erhalten. Hauptaugenmerk lag auch hier auf der Vermittlung von Wissen an medizinisches Personal. Auf diese Weise konnten unnötige Reisen über Land und Wasser in die Stadt verhindert werden.
In Phase II of the UBUNTU mission, mainly more remote communities received medicines and consumables. The main focus here was also on imparting knowledge to medical staff. In this way, unnecessary journeys over land and water to the city could be prevented.
UBUNTU – Phase III
Aufgrund der schwerwiegenden psychologischen Folgen des Virus und der dadurch entstandenen neuen Dynamiken konzentrierte sich die letzte Phase auf die psychosoziale Unterstützung von Kindern und Familien in neun Gemeinden.
Due to the severe psychological impact of the virus and the new dynamics it created, the final phase focused on psychosocial support for children and families in nine communities.
Spread over the three phases of the UBUNTU mission, we were able to mobilise around € 140,000. Of this, training for medical staff in 14 communities and medical equipment for the hospital in Istmina were paid for.
Our collaboration with the diocese and health authorities made the first phase in Istmina possible. Two further phases, for a better and sustainable impact, were funded by grants from other German organisations.
CASA HOGAR’s main role in this case was the coordination of the different actors. Management and implementation were deliberately in the hands of our local project partners.
The mission was given its name UBUNTU by Prof. Laureano Quintero.
He writes about it:
“Ubuntu is a South African philosophy centred on loyalty and solidarity.
Its name is derived from the Zulú and Xhosa languages and can be translated as
‘humanity for others’ or ‘I am because we are’.”