What NPH Bolivia Needs To Make It Through COVID-19
Ever increasing prices for essentials like disposable gloves and flour have put a strain on the monthly budget and routine activities that keep NPH Bolivia running smoothly and protected from the COVID-19 virus.
April 30, 2020 - Bolivia
As the world continues to comprehend life with COVID-19, NPH Bolivia continues adapting its approach to care and provide for its children. With 1,110 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 59 deaths as of 30 April, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Bolivia has extended its nationwide quarantine as it works to limit the spread of COVID-19 among the local population.
Local towns of Montero, Portachuelo, and Santa Rosa are under strict military quarantine to limit the movement of people and thus the spread of COVID-19. These strict quarantines have caused problems for the NPH Bolivia home in its weekly purchasing activity. Multiple times staff have had to acquire special permission from the government, which is never a guarantee, so they can pass through checkpoints along the route to make regular purchases.
Prices have increased on everything from food and hygiene products to essential supplies needed to combat COVID-19 like hand soap, disposable gloves, and face masks. Before COVID-19, a box of face masks cost US$7.25; today it is US$36.25, a 400% increase. Similarly, hand sanitizer has doubled from approximately US$2.90 a liter to US$5.80, causing problems for healthcare clinics and organizations similar to NPH that provide health services.
Increases in the cost of basic foods is not just a problem for NPH, but also for the poorest members of society, especially at a time when government-imposed quarantines have suspended many informal jobs, such as street vendors or farmworkers. Even baking a simple loaf of bread is out of reach for many. Flour has increased from US$0.72 a kilogram to approximately US$1.00 a kilogram, a 39% increase. Cheese, an important source of protein for many of the poorest Bolivians, has gone up from US$3.75 to US$4.35; a 16% difference.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, NPH Bolivia’s typical monthly purchases of food, hygiene products, and cleaning supplies totaled roughly US$10,300. Today, however, this existing monthly budget does not account for new items needed to protect the staff and children from COVID-19.
NPH International Director of Medical Services Dr. Edwin Vallecillo has provided a list of protection and prevention supplies that each NPH home needs in order to be fully prepared to fight COVID-19. These extra, but necessary, purchases have put a strain on the home’s budget as the demand for these materials keeps going up, while the available supply goes down.
“The cost of virtually everything has increased, which is a trend we are seeing in all of our countries,” explains National Director Tom Kuiper. “Now we are purchasing more prevention materials as we use them in each of our children’s casitas, thus increasing our overall expenses.”
In the markets, the cost of most products has gone up, especially ingredients to make bread like flour and eggs, as well as fruits and vegetables, in particular citrus fruits high in vitamin C. In NPH Bolivia, the staff and children eat bread almost every day, usually for breakfast or dinner. Therefore, the ingredients to make bread are essential to the home’s diet.
While prices have increased, the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables has grown as the home looks to bolster the nutritional value of the daily diet and improve the children’s overall health.
“If the children’s bodies are healthy then that helps keep their minds healthy, which helps them feel strong and healthy,” Tom says. “That is why we want to prioritize buying and serving healthy foods.”
And yet, the situation grows more complex. The desire to prioritize purchasing healthier foods and materials needed to follow COVID-19 prevention protocols must be reconciled with the reality of the changing weather. Winter is coming, which means warmer clothing for the children and other needs must be met.
Aside from the range of preventive measures now being taken to keep the virus out of the home, everyone is practicing social distancing as well, which still feels very unnatural for the children. This new way of being with each other is a daily challenge, but the possibility that COVID-19 could enter the home is both a constant threat and motivation to stay disciplined.
“Our faith helps us to continue feeling connected to our children, staff, and volunteers in these difficult times, just as we feel connected more than ever with our donors and godparents,” Tom concludes. “With their support we are confident that we will come out of this pandemic stronger—a more unified family.”
Please support our NPH homes during this time of need. Any help you can give is well received and accepted graciously. Please visit nph.org for more information.