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  • Gustavo Driau

Peace, relief and hope in this time of need, Piura

Updated: May 18, 2020

The Peruvian Evangelical Lutheran Church, IL-P, has contacted a few years ago the Lutheran mission "Christ The King" in the city of Piura, more precisely in the January 31st shantytown to support pastoral and diaconal work. Recently, the Lutheran Mission "Christ the King" began the process of joining the IL-P

Piura is a city in the northeast of Peru, with 1,800,000 inhabitants, it is one of the ancient cities in South America, founded in 1532. A few kilometers of Piura is the archaeological site of Narihuala, with an architecture of character monumental adobe

The mission is in a place with unsatisfied basic needs, with a large Peruvian and foreign migrant population because of the low-cost to rent rooms and houses, which migrants can pay with their low income.

Peru is the second country in Latin America and the thirteenth in the world with the highest number of confirmed cases of coronavirus. The most affected areas of the country continued to be Lima, with (64.3% of the national total), neighboring El Callao, and the northern departments Lambayeque (3,655) and Piura (2,425).

Piura has always been in an emergency; there have never been hospitals, beds, personnel, or infrastructure to attend to the situation. The COVID-19 crisis collapsed the hospitals, and people leave without a mask or glasses, and there is no social distancing.

The region is in extreme emergency and overwhelmed in the coronavirus crisis. Thousands of people circulate the streets as if the quarantine has ended, and there are no intensive care beds.

The situation is and will be extremely critical by the end of May 2020.

This shantytown is a result of the invasion of marginal land of little value in the 1990s. Its residents have jobs with low incomes and highly unstable; families often work both men and women, and all they do from very young until they are very old. The slum lacks, mostly, basic services of running water and sewage, has no sidewalks or paved streets. There are some water sources used by the whole community for the collection of water, which is stored in plastic tanks.

The houses do not have property titles and are mostly rustic material, such as plywood and reeds from Guayaquil. They only have water a few hours a day, and the taste of the water is salty. The economic level is low, with situations of extreme poverty, and barefoot children in the streets are often and usual. The inhabitants of this human settlement dedicate themselves to different tasks; among the men, there are masons, drivers, making clothes. Women care for the elderly, others work in restaurants, some sell sweets as street vendors, and others work at home making crafts or making clothes. Adding to the shortage of opportunities for paid work is citizen insecurity because it is an area of refuge for gangs and drug trafficking.

People living in poverty and exclusion in Peru use alternative resources to address their health problems; they hardly access to public hospitals. These resources are found in their fragmented traditional knowledge, and multiple experiences of solidarity, with mixtures between conventional practices and official knowledge. The right to health is far from being a reality. Citizens living in poverty, civil servants, and public officials have limited awareness of responsibilities and health rights.

In this context, IL-P is implementing a health project that aims to promote community health through education, access to information, and good practices in aspects of food, hygiene, sexuality, and prevention of gender violence against women, girls, boys, and adolescents.

Cesar Castillo and Marisol Velasco lead the local team. They serve with diaconal and pastoral ministries to the local community and the Lutheran Mission "Christ the King" since several years ago. They live in the neighborhood, with their three children and Cesar's mother.

Cesar and Marisol have led IL-P and SEPEC program programs to rebuild homes in the community devastated by the Niño Costero in 2017, to support Venezuelan migrants in 2018 and 2019, and to houses reconstruction after the earthquake of May 26, 2019.

The population in poverty in Piura reaches 40%, within which there is 10% in extreme poverty.

Anemia and malnutrition in children under three years of age in marginal urban areas of Piura exceed 40%, while at the national level, it is 18%.

According to the official statistics of Peru (2015), Piura has an illiteracy rate of 7.6%, this percentage being higher in women (10.7%; So the risk of being illiterate just by living in this region is 21.7% more than in the rest of the country.

Gender-based violence and domestic violence are at the core of citizen insecurity: 72.4% of women say they have suffered some type of abuse at the hands of their partner.

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