It has been way too long that we placed an update on our website. We have a lot to tell about the past months. For example how someone filed a police report against me (Steven) and how I was interrogated and how the charges were dropped. Also, we received news that a criminal group was preparing a robbery at the hospital. Besides all this, we moved house a couple of times and the children have (again) grown quite a bit.
But first an update on the corona virus in Peru. At the time of writing this, there are 2.281 confirmed cases of corona virus in Peru. 83 people have died of this disease. Low numbers in comparison to other countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. This is partly due to the quick and decisive way in which the Peruvian president Martín Vizcarra has acted. He closed all schools early March and declared the state of emergency as off March 16th. With this, not only the outer borders of Peru were closed but all movement within Peru itself was also severely restricted. All shops and companies are closed except for those active in crucial sectors such as food, health care, energy etc. Since then, everybody is ordered to stay in their house so we can only get out of the house to buy food and supplies (so far enough toilet paper) or to go to work as we work in a hospital. A bit later a curfew from 8pm to 5am was anounced and later it was extended to 6pm to 5am. In Curahuasi, the police is in the streets actively enforcing these rules. In Lima armed military is even helping with this. Since a couple of days, men can only go out to buy food on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, women on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Sunday, nobody is supposed to go out. More strict every couple of days. Not nice but it seems to have some effect.
It is to be expected that the virus will spread here in Peru sooner or later. When this happens, lots of people could die. Our department of Apurímac is home to roughly 500.000 people and there are approximately 30 ventilators available. Although the population is, in comparison to Europe’s, relatively young (positive), unfortunately there are many who suffer from lung diseases due to cooking on a wood fire in the house, working in the mines or infections with tuberculosis etc (negative). In some communities malnutrition is also still a problem. In Ecuador, our neigbouring country, dead people are lying in the streets of Guayaguil, horrible images and stories. This could be what will happen in Peru in the coming weeks.
When the borders were closed a couple of weeks ago the question arose: what are we going to do? We are here with 3 small children in a country that is not ours in an unpredictable situation. The virus itself and the health care in Peru is worrying enough, but even more worrisome to us is the social unrest that could be caused by a crisis like this. In Cusco, foreigners are already treated really badly as they are blamed for the outbreak of the corona virus. But we were convinced that God called us to Peru for 3 years, surely He did not make a mistake? And we came here to help, should we leave now that it gets difficult? Tough decision. For a couple of days, the best thing seemed to split up, Vikki and the children would travel to The Netherlands, I would stay in Peru. That way, we could still help with the difficult situation while we could also get the children to a safer environment. There is no school and Vikki cannot work that much as I am at work a lot. But we changed our minds when multiple people gave us very similar advise: do not split up! They basically all advised us to either stay together or to go together. After talking and praying it over some more we decided to stay, at least for now. We are in contact with the Dutch Consul in Cusco who told us: ”if tomorrow, next week or after that change your mind and want to leave I will do everything I can to help you travel to The Netherlands. If necessary, I will personally drive to Curahuasi to pick you up”. What a service!
Basically everything at the hospital currently revolves around the corona virus. Because people cannot leave their houses we receive very few patients. That poses some problems to me as Administrator because few patients means little work and little income. Although we only charge minimal prices the income from patients usually covers the salaries of Peruvian personnel. More importantly, we are full on preparing for the probable arrival of the corona virus to Curahuasi. All doctors and nurses are being trained in the treatment of patients in the ICU and in using ventilators. Last week we signed a cooperation agreement with the regional government of Apurímac. Last Tuesday we celebrated Vikki’s 30th birthday and on Wednesday, I drove from Curahuasi to Lima with the director of the hospital Klaus. 14 hours without breaks and 11 police checks. Thanks to a written permit signed by the governor and the police general of Apurímac we got through those checks without any problem. At one point, the tires of our car were even desinfected. It was an interesting drive, almost no other traffic on the road and through a beautiful landscape. Through the mountains, up to the snow line, down and through the desert and finally along the coast. On the way we saw lamas, alpacas, vicuñas and condors. All very impressive.
We are now in Lima trying to get more ventilators and more doctors. Both seem practically impossible since every hospital is after the same things. Yet we have found 2 ventilators before the weekend and 1 doctor has confirmed to come to Curahuasi for 3 months. The coming days we will continue our search and we hope to drive back to Curahuasi on Thursday. Meanwhile, Vikki is busy at home entertaining the children and trying to do some home schooling. Thankfully we have a big garden! Vikki also helped with the preparations for a training for the nurses.
We will try to keep you posted on the developments here. Meanwhile we pray you all of you as Europe, so far, has bit hit a lot harder than Peru.
“Then He placed His right hand on me and said: Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”