By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The bishops of the Amazon region in Peru have issued a joint statement calling on the government to establish health strategies appropriate to the indigenous and rural reality of the Amazon.
The eight-point statement, published on the website of the Pan-American Church Network (REPAM) on 23 April, touched on important issues faced by the people living in the Amazon area, such as social inequality, poor healthcare and poverty.
Call for care for the vulnerable
In the statement, the Peruvian bishops recognize the efforts of the government in the fight against coronavirus. They however note that “social inequalities leave the weakest unprotected, making them more vulnerable to Covid-19.”
In this regard, the bishops called the attention of the government to the plight of the thousands of people who have migrated from rural areas in search of work due to poverty. Many of them are “living in overcrowded conditions on the outskirts of the cities and have become victims of exclusion by the state with poor health coverage, which is more evident in the face of the pandemic,” the statement reads.
There are also some indigenous people of the Amazon who went to work in agricultural regions on the coast and are temporarily stuck there due to the pandemic. Many of them cannot return to their communities as they no longer have an economic income. The bishops called on the government to support them in returning to their communities following the necessary precautionary health measures against coronavirus.
Another affected group, the bishops noted, are the “many poor people who do not have access to government benefits because they were not included in the country’s census.”
Suitable health care response
In the light of the difficult realities facing the indigenous people of the Amazonian region, the bishops call on the government to provide “emergency health strategy appropriate to the indigenous and rural reality of the Amazon.” This should take into account the “cultural diversity, existing heterogeneity and indigenous knowledge,” and ensure food and hygiene products to confront the pandemic.
The prelates encouraged the people of God to strengthen the domestic church in every home as the “family is the basis of society and the believing community.” They also enjoined the people to live this Easter season in solidarity with the vulnerable by complying with the directives given by health authorities to stem the spread of coronavirus.
To contribute to efforts against the pandemic, the bishops announced that they would make available some of the Church’s physical spaces to health authorities. The Church is also offering human and economic resources to alleviate the crisis.