< NEW > : See our COVID-19 Policy Brief
Peru ranks among the countries most severely affected by COVID-19 in the world, despite instating one of the earliest and longest quarantines in Latin America and an ambitious social program aimed to assist families with the economic consequences of the pandemic. Peru has struggled to flatten the curve while at the same time taken steps to reopen economic activity amidst an acute recession.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Peruvian Amazon in mid-March and sparked international concern about the well-being of the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of the region. Although the two major urban centers – Iquitos and Pucallpa – received media attention, information about conditions in the many smaller rural communities along the rivers of Loreto and Ucayali regions is scarce. The case and mortality data provided by the Peruvian Government for the two regions is invaluable but reflects conditions in more urbanized communities – those with some health facilities – but most rural communities have none, lack reliable means of communication, and many are just too remote, making it difficult to discern the impacts of COVID-19 in much of the Peruvian Amazon. To remedy this lacuna, and with a concern about the people that we work with, we undertook a large-scale survey by phone among communities in the PARLAP study area that captures the rural prevalence of COVID-19 and its consequences.
Our baseline phone survey conducted in July 2020 covered 470 communities (370 in Loreto, 100 in Ucayali; 56% indigenous, 44% campesino) with phone access, which account for over 50% of 919 communities covered in our original community survey. Many communities still cannot be reached by phone. We subsequently conducted a follow-up phone (midline) survey in August and early September which reached 436 of the 470 communities (93%), and a series of more in-depth qualitative phone interviews with a small number of communities. Together, these instruments provide us with unique information about the prevalence of COVID-19, potential cause of spread, protection measures employed, assistance received, people’s responses and concerns over time.
By combining COVID data with our original PARLAP community survey, remote sensing and GIS data, we plan to examine how COVID-related measures are related to various community, geographical, and environmental factors. Findings from this research promise to provide policy-relevant insights for health care, poverty alleviation, and conservation during and after the pandemic.