The rapid increase in COVID-19 infections in many European countries has recently seen their respective governments respond with measures and controls not witnessed since the very early impacts of the virus back in the spring. These decisions have often come with great reluctance, primarily due to an ever-increasing acknowledgement that these lockdown-type restrictions have multiple and complex indirect consequences on the population beyond the more obvious impacts on the economy.
And these indirect impacts are being seen around the world. The Amazon Hope (AH) Medical Programme is based in Iquitos, the Peruvian city worst hit at the beginning of the pandemic. Lockdown measures were quickly introduced, which restricted travel between the city and the many hundreds of river communities for all but essential services. Due to the concern of spreading the virus to the villages, all mobile health services were also suspended, including the visits by the AH Programme’s ships.
Thankfully, the local COVID-19 situation has improved and the programme was able to return to service in September under strict protocols and procedures. Whilst the Amazon Hope team were delighted to receive reports from the communities that the impact of virus had been very low, it was also challenged to see how the lack of medical care and support had resulted in exacerbating other health issues.
Amongst these were increased levels of malnourishment and anaemia amongst children. Travel restrictions not only made the trade of food more difficult between Iquitos and the communities, but also the regular vitamin and supplements provided by health services to children had not taken place over many months. The AH team also reported many women being unable to access their contraceptive medication as normal resulting in an increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies, which bring with them a significant additional emotional, physical and economic challenge.
These or similar indirect consequences are being repeated in villages, towns and cities across the world and the legacy of the virus will undoubtedly include an increase in non-COVID-19 related health issues for many months and years to come as a result of restrictions and controls that had to be put in place. Faced with these challenges, Vine Trust is as committed as ever to support our overseas partners as best we can in the development and delivery of vital healthcare services to isolated and vulnerable communities in Peru and Tanzania.
To find out more about the work of the AH Programme, please see the following page – www.vinetrust.org/about/medical-services
VT also has a crowdfunding page for the AH Programme’s expeditions to the communities in 2021. If you were able to support this initiative, please click this link - www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-support-amazon-communities-affected-by-covid/backers#start