The pandemic has strongly impacted families´ livelihoods, and without stable sources of income the damage the virus will create is uncertain. What is sure is that people will not survive if they don´t have money and food.
Victoria Torres, 34, along with her husband Florentin Acabal, 35, and their seven children, ages 5 to 17, live in the community of Racana, in the municipality of Momostenango, Totonicapán. Victoria recalls that a few months ago, at the beginning of March, when COVID-19 had not reached the country, her husband used to find work seven days a week as a day laborer. His field work mostly consisting of cleaning and harvesting fields of corn and beans and he brought home $32 every week. However, when the state of public calamity was declared, people stayed at home and commercial activities stopped. With the country paralyzed, their income like that of many other Guatemalan families, was seriously affected.
“My husband is a day laborer, but the pandemic changed things, he´s unable to find work, people are staying home and doing their own field word. With luck he only finds a day or two of work per week”, said Victoria.
With limited work opportunities and pay rate of only $4.60 a day, Florentino´s field work now brings $10 a week on average for his family which is, needless to say, not enough.
In response, USAID´s Communities Leading Development Project prepared an emergency project proposal aimed at helping families survive with dignity and restore their life amidst the emergency. The proposal managed to capture funds for over $250,000 to implement the emergency response project funded by CRS´ Humanitarian Response Department (HRD). The initiative mitigates the economic impact and food insecurity during the emergency through cash transfers to purchase food and personal hygiene products such as soap and alcohol to help with prevention efforts, establishment of family-level chicken farms to generate income and supplement families´ nutrition and equipping the municipal food security offices.
In September and October, with HRD funding CLD provided two cash transfers for Victoria´s family and 1,024 other families in 11 communities facing food insecurity, transferring a total amount of $184,500 USD ($180 USD total per family).
“During the pandemic we reached a point of desperation without work and with nothing to feed our children. The money was a blessing, as soon as I left the bank, I went to the local marketplace to buy food and milk for my children” – Victoria Torres.
The emergency project prioritized households with small children, pregnant women, single mothers, older adults, persons with disabilities and households that have not received support from other programs.
Juana Pu, 24, another project participant, lives with her husband Baltazar, 28, and two girls aged two and four in Paviolin, in the municipality of Santa Lucia La Reforma, Totonicapán. Her husband, a weaver, used to produce four cortes (traditional skirts) a week, earning $42.00 of steady income for his labor. With the arrival of COVID-19 the demand for cortes disappeared and so did their livelihood.
“When the pandemic came, we did not deliver any more cortes because no one would buy them, people don´t have money and there were no more festivities or reasons for people to buy clothing” – Juana Pu.
Prior to the emergency, Juana´s family was able to set aside a savings fund thanks to Balthazar’s steady income. Unfortunately, that money ran out and as Baltazar said “The cash transfer arrived when we needed it the most”.
“Since the pandemic we don’t have a source of income, and we started to take from our savings; we had saved for over a year, and that is how we´ve survived but we’ve used up almost all of our savings. Thank God a few days ago, my husband started weaving again because people are now buying clothes again”, said Juana with a sense of hope.
With the suspension of the state of public calamity, the economy has slowly opened, at that rate Juana and Baltazar hope to get back on track, working tirelessly to put healthy food on the table and restarting their savings goals.
The emergency project has brought much needed aid, families have food and a boost to get back on their feet. CLD´s leverage efforts have helped families respond to the COVID-19 crisis to make communities more resilient during the pandemic.