The World Today for January 26, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

The Covid Orphans

PERU

More than 204,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Peru, the highest rate per capita on Earth. Tragically, many of those lost were parents. More tragically, the virus in the South American country often claimed both parents or all caregivers in a family. As a result, nearly 100,000 Peruvian children are now orphans. The British medical journal the Lancet called the development a “hidden pandemic.”

The Peruvian government has passed a bill to provide a monthly stipend of $50 for each child left without a guardian, reported i24 News, an Israeli broadcaster. That sum only helps so much, however. With a gross per capita income of around $6,000, Peru is a poor country. Poor school attendance, mental health issues and other problems are now growing among the young people who are its future.

“Even before you take into account that more than 1,000 children have died from Covid-19 in Peru, they have been extremely affected by depression and anxiety,” Roxana Pingo, Covid response program coordinator for Save the Children Peru, told the Guardian.

Gabriela Zarate lives with her husband, their four children and her deceased sister’s four children in a small house outside the Peruvian capital of Lima, the BBC reported. She was already struggling to feed her family. Under lockdowns, she and her husband couldn’t work as drivers or street vendors. They violated curfew to earn cash, but then her husband contracted Covid-19. Eventually, they flew a white flag outside their house, a sign that they needed help, and neighbors gave them some food.

As National Public Radio explained, inadequate health care infrastructure, a dependence on imports of medicine and supplies to combat the pandemic, informal jobs that make lockdowns difficult for millions and endemic poverty are some of the reasons why the pandemic has hit the country so hard.

There are reasons to be optimistic that the virus may soon lose steam, however. Around 80 percent of Peruvians ages 12 and older have received jabs, Agence France-Presse reported.

Amid the crisis, leftist President Pedro Castillo, who won office last year on a pledge to use the country’s mining wealth to lift its citizens out of poverty, has sought to calm international investors to prop up the economy, Bloomberg noted. As Reuters explained, Castillo faced charges related to alleged collusion and influence peddling for public works contracts. But, denying the charges, he avoided impeachment, further bringing stability to the country.

Castillo has said the state has an obligation to Peru’s orphans. Even with all the money and power in the world, however, he could not give them what their hearts most desire.

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