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Why information is vital in the fight against coronavirus in Paraguay

by JoAnna Black August 4, 2020

Information has been vital in the fight against coronavirus here in Canada. Various governments have been holding daily briefings, the internet and our social media channels are constantly filled with information about safety protocols, and the news hasn’t stopped talking about the ever evolving situation. We are fortunate in Canada to have this information constantly flowing and easily available.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the communities that we typically work in.

In order to help control the spread of coronavirus, ShelterBox recently deployed on an ‘information campaign’ in Paraguay, to support families and communities that have previously received aid, but may need more help protecting themselves from coronavirus.

ShelterBox Horizons Lead Dave Ray reminisces about his past experiences in Paraguay, and provides some amazing insights about this information campaign and the importance of supporting families in new and innovative ways. Read on to see why information is vital in the fight against coronavirus in Paraguay.

“The first time I visited Paraguay was in 2014, when heavy rain and flooding forced thousands of people to leave their homes.

Within a few days of being there, I knew that this was going to be unlike any other country I had worked in with ShelterBox. I fell in love with the people and their unapologetic realness. Never before had I talked to someone about a life-altering experience of leaving a flooded home, and what aid items they needed to rebuild – all while they gutted a chicken. There was something about that honesty that appealed to me!

My first visit to Paraguay in 2014, responding to flooding 

I’ve been so pleased to be involved again with ShelterBox’s latest project in Paraguay. That, and I quite enjoy that the project is a little unusual compared to how we typically work! Normally we support families with aid items, but this year we’re supporting families with information about coronavirus. It’s completely different to how we’ve worked anywhere else before – and it’s a challenge that ShelterBox was determined to take on. A challenge that has only been possible thanks to our amazing supporters and their continued dedication to helping families everywhere.

What’s happening in Paraguay?

Flooding happens on a semi-annual basis in Paraguay. Families in the marginalised communities we’re working with live in basic huts made of plywood and other non-permanent materials (see image below). When the flooding comes, they move their homes from the riverside to a drier area. And when it subsides, they move back again.

That’s where ShelterBox came in last year. Thousands of families received emergency aid to help recover, they needed to rebuild their homes and make them stronger than before.

Coronavirus in Paraguay

This year flooding is expected to happen again. But there is another more terrifying threat – and it’s the one we’re all battling with right now. Containing and reducing the spread of coronavirus. Latin America is now the worst-affected region in the world, with over 27% of worldwide cases (Reuters). And with the first coronavirus cases now in Paraguay, the threat is real for families who are already struggling.

Homes made of plywood are common in the marginalised communities we’re working with

Many of the people you’ve helped us work with don’t have dedicated access to information that can help protect themselves from the virus. To top it off, people aren’t able to self-isolate in their homes – there simply isn’t enough space. A lockdown is practically impossible, as is physical distancing, and there is very little healthcare available.

This means that information on how to protect themselves against coronavirus is crucial. Which is exactly why we decided to go back to Paraguay this year and revisit the families you supported in 2019.

How are we supporting families?

In a typical ShelterBox response, we might support families with aid items like tents, water filters, kitchen sets, and other emergency items. But because we responded to flooding in Paraguay just last year, the families we’re working with already have these things – what they really need now is information.

That’s why ShelterBox has partnered with Habitat for Humanity Paraguay to create information campaigns. This includes leaflets and posters that show people how they can use their ShelterBox aid items to create additional space, how to isolate somebody, how to clean effectively, the importance of handwashing, and more.

Leaflets, posters, banners and Whatsapp messages have been shared with the communities in Paraguay

Banners have been put up in over 50 locations throughout the communities we worked with last year. We’re also sending WhatsApp messages directly to communities and community leaders with this information so we can reach families directly.

Translation is so much more than recreating text word for word – our partners at Habitat for Humanity have made these messages more powerful by putting them into a context that’s relevant to the communities we’re supporting. For example, in the same way that people meet for tea or coffee here, friends often gather in Paraguay and drink Tereré (the national drink of Paraguay – similar to an iced herbal tea). One of the key messages Habitat for Humanity advised us to include was not to share your Tereré with friends. This helps to make the information real for people’s daily life and culture! No matter where we are working, or what type of aid is being delivered, it is important to connect with the families being supported.

All in all, the messages we are sharing with families in Paraguay are simple – but it means that people have a chance. It means they can know in advance how to protect themselves, which we all know is vitally important when it comes to the fight against coronavirus.”

At ShelterBox we are dedicated to supporting people after disaster and helping them to protect themselves from coronavirus. To learn more about how we’re responding to the pandemic in other countries around the world, read about our crisis within a crisis response.

Thank you for your continued support of ShelterBox Canada. Because of you innovative campaigns like this are possible, and are helping save lives.

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