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Church is on frontlines of pandemic response in Ecuador


Str | Marcos Pin | AFP

John Burger - published on 04/07/20 - updated on 04/07/20

Missionary reports that Latin American country is dealing with collapsed health system, mounting bodies.

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a double health emergency in Ecuador, the hardest hit country in Latin America. The country’s health system has collapsed, and the bodies of the dead are accumulating in houses and streets, waiting to be taken to the cemetery.

Guayaquil, a port city of 2.3 million inhabitants, has almost half of the 2,700 positive cases of Covid-19 in the country, leading a missionary working there to label the situation “catastrophic.”

Medical equipment and staff are lacking, and doctors and nurses are working up to 16 hours a day, doing double shifts, Vatican News reports. The missionary, Comboni Father José Barranco, said that the epidemic is so bad, in part, because of the population not adhering to government instructions to stay at home.

“But in the vast poverty-stricken areas of Guayaquil it is difficult to impose quarantine. A house is often just one room, he says, “where three, four or even five people live together, and there is little food. What are they supposed to do?”

Everyone is trying to respond as best they can, Fr. Barranco said, but whatever the government, the Church, or medical personnel try to do in this situation “is not enough.”

The missionary said that the Church is offering both physical and spiritual support to those in need. A hospital run by the Guayaquil Archdiocese, for example, does not have the capacity to assist Covid-19 sufferers, but it does admit patients with other diseases, and that helps alleviate some of the pressure from the public health care system. The hospital is also providing medical advice through a telephone service.

In addition, parishes are working with the government on its “Together we feed more people” program. They act as collection and distribution points for food rations which are vital at this time, as many people are suffering from hunger.

Barranco, who is director of the National Catholic Radio in the capital city of Quito, said these parishes are providing liturgies and moments of prayer through the media. All of these gestures, he concludes, aim to “sow faith and hope.”

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