Buenaventura, Colombia – In First Person

Lorena, Victor and Gloria’s druthers attend the John Paul I Girl’s Home in Buenaventura, Colombia. The pandemic has brought economic problems to all three families including unemployment. All three parents have difficulties with distance learning. They don’t have internet access and the necessary tools for their daughters to complete their school work. Lorena, Victor, and Gloria all feel stressed about the current situation, and they are all very concerned about their daughters’ education.

Extreme poverty, overcrowded slums, lack of access to sanitation are some of the precarious social conditions that have caused coronavirus to spread among the most vulnerable in Colombia’s port cities, among them, two of the most important on the Caribbean coast – Barranquilla and Cartagena – and largest on the Pacific Ocean, Buenaventura.

A tragic increase of COVID-19 cases is unfolding in Buenaventura, home to a predominately Afro-Colombian population, and whose proximity to the departmental capital Cali has facilitated the spread of the contagion among both populations. According to the mayor of Buenaventura Víctor Hugo Vidal, the high numbers of infection have exposed deep social and economic inequalities between the Pacific region and interior, as well as the lack of discipline among many of his residents.

The focus for the government of President Iván Duque is strengthening healthcare access and medical infrastructure in its port cities and regions where intense clusters have the potential to devastate impoverished communities. With scientific experts predicting that Colombia will peak in infections mid-June, citizens are being advised to not lower their guard, and just weeks before the country fully reopens.

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