We hope this letter finds you and your family safe and healthy. I’m almost reluctant to share with you what is happening in Bolivia because I know so many of you must be suffering during these days of the COVID pandemic and social unrest. We are glad to hear that the economy is opening back up in the U.S. and many people are returning to work. We pray that the COVID pandemic will remain under control and that life can return to normal quickly.
We do want to update you on our situation in Bolivia. We are currently on day 86 of complete quarantine lockdown in Santa Cruz. We will continue to be under lockdown until at least June 30th. This means we are only allowed to leave the house one morning a week to purchase food, and even then, we are not allowed to drive anywhere. Only essential services such as food markets, grocery stores, pharmacies, medical services, and banks remain open. As a family, we are fine. We have plenty of food and we are healthy.
I do want to let you know what is happening in Bolivia outside the safety of our home. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic is taking a tremendous toll on the economy and health of millions of poor Bolivians. Many families have to break quarantine, and risk being arrested and contracting COVID because they have no money to purchase food. Through your donations, we have been able to help fund three programs that provide at least one hot meal a day to families in impoverished neighborhoods around the city, but this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the real need for food relief in Bolivia.
The biggest crisis right now is the rapidly growing number of COVID cases in Bolivia. It seems that every day we set a new record for the number of cases recorded. The official statistics state that we currently have about 20,000 cases and 650 deaths in the country (they are predicting 100,000 cases and 5,000 deaths in the next two months). I do not, however, believe this is a true reflection of the number of cases. Testing for COVID is practically nonexistent in Bolivia. Almost no one can get tested. The few that do, cannot get the results for weeks because the testing labs have broken down. I read yesterday that many of the lab techs are sick with COVID and that they do not have the reagents needed to process the backlog of many thousands of collected samples.
Despite the strict quarantine, the number of cases is exploding and the health care system has not been able to keep pace. We are hearing from many of our Bolivian friends that they and their family members are becoming sick and they cannot find hospitals or clinics where they can be admitted. The healthcare system is collapsing because there are not enough hospitals and clinics and because so many health care professionals are becoming sick themselves. Public hospitals and clinics are completely full. Private health clinics are charging at least $1000 USD/day for patients to be admitted. Just in the last two days, the media has reported that six people have died on the street while they were going from clinic to clinic looking for a place that would treat them. Perhaps more alarming, many of the health care professionals are coming down with COVID. I would say the majority of them continue to work even while they are sick because there is no one to replace them, or if they admit they are sick they will lose their jobs. I read yesterday that in the Chapare region of Cochabamba, 55 out of a total of 60 health workers have COVID. In the larger regional town of Trinidad, they are estimating that at least 50% of health workers have COVID.
So many healthcare workers are getting sick because they do not have access to proper PPE (personal protective equipment) such as disposable gowns, masks, and gloves. We have heard from friends in the medical field that they are required to purchase their own PPE. Some have quit their posts because they cannot afford the PPE and do not feel they are protected from COVID while at work. The essential mask (model N95) initially cost $1.50 USD before the pandemic, but now it costs $10.00 USD. Disposable gowns cost $18.00 USD each.
Vanessa and I are frustrated that we cannot do more to help out during this pandemic. We are thankful that Vanessa has been able to meet through video conferencing with her team of counselors and clients for her women’s ministry, but I have not been able to continue drilling water wells or distributing water filters because of the travel restrictions. I have asked for a special permit to be allowed to continue providing water to rural communities, but have so far been denied permission.
One thing we have been able to do is create a special benevolence fund through the EFCA, to which several of you have donated, to help provide food to impoverished families during this time of crisis. Thank you so much for supporting this effort! This month we would like to continue this work and expand it to help bring in much-needed PPE for healthcare workers in Bolivia!
I believe we can help save hundreds of lives if we can import and distribute PPE, free of charge, to healthcare workers. I have been in contact with a friend, Placido Mercado, who is a Bolivian missionary doctor. He said healthcare workers desperately need masks, gowns, and gloves. Placido is excited to work with us to help import PPE and distribute these items where they are most needed in Bolivia. I also have a friend in China who is an export agent who can get us great prices on these PPE items and assure us that items purchased in China will be shipped quickly to Bolivia. We can get the N95 masks for $1.10 USD ea, disposable gowns for $7.81 USD ea., and surgical latex gloves for $.53 USD ea.
Please join us in this campaign to help save lives during this crisis in Bolivia. Collectively we can make a huge impact and demonstrate the love of Christ through action. Our goal is to raise at least $10,000 USD to purchase PPE for Bolivia.
In the U.S., please follow this link to make a donation through the EFCA: https://give.efca.org/. In the designation box please indicate that it is for #001-0244—Bolivia benevolence fund.
In Canada, you can donate directly to the EFCCM at https://www.efccm.ca/wordpress/benevolence-fund/. Please leave a comment indicating that your donation is specifically for Bolivia.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Love and prayers,
Danny and Vanessa