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12 August 2020

Two Peruvian youths power through the Corona crisis

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The Corona crisis poses serious difficulties for the people in the Peruvian capital Lima and the other major cities. Hundreds of thousands have no livelihood since the lockdown. The consequences are also being felt in the remote Andean villages around Huancavelica. There, the young brothers Jhoel and Jhon provide additional support for the family and their future.

Jhoel Ortiz is sitting on his bed and has opened his notebook. It's school. On the rack next to him flickers in the TV, what the homemade antennas on the roof receive. It is the virtual school lessons of the sixth primary class. The family bought the television especially for this purpose. I'm sure there are other channels with more exciting content. The 11-year-old resists the temptation and notes down the teacher's questions. "What is the difference between a custom and a tradition?" After the show, Jhoel switches off and sits down at the table, thinking of the right answers.

Since the government's lockdown on 15 March, Jhoel and his 15-year-old brother Jhon have been challenged. Not only do they have to take responsibility for themselves by watching television, but the crisis has also destroyed the livelihood of the Ortiz family.

Father Valentin is already 82 and has not been given any masonry contracts in the village near Huancavelica for a long time. Like 70 percent of Peruvians, he has always worked in the informal sector without an employment contract or pension fund. Mother Juana, 55, takes care of the house, looks after her husband and grows as many potatoes and vegetables as possible all around. But this is not enough to survive.

No income overnight

Valentin and Juana both have adult children from previous relationships who transferred money from Lima - the equivalent of about 36 francs a month. Since the lockdown, no more money is coming in. Jhon and Jhoel's half-brothers and -sisters are struggling in Lima itself.

With the lockdown, the lower income groups in Peru's major cities lost all their income virtually overnight. There is no official employment contract for informal employment, no notice period and no entitlement to social benefits. Even before the lockdown, many people lacked money for supplies or even refrigerators. People are starving.

The number of infections in Peru is now close to half a million people. Around 20,000 people have died as a result of the virus. And these are just the official figures.

Brothers take responsibility

The Cuy breeding of Jhoel and Jhon also suffers from the lockdown. Even before the crisis, the two of them participated in the ADECAP programme of terre des hommes schweiz alongside the school. There they learn in workshops how to make the traditional Cuy breeding profitable in order to build a long-term livelihood in the Andes.

The guinea pig species is considered a delicacy in Peru and sells well at the city markets. Since they are officially closed, this income is also lost. But the two of them continue to breed, mow grass for the Cuys and clean their stable. So they don't have to start from scratch after the crisis.

In the crisis, the two young people show real initiative. To make up some of the lost income, they sacrifice their free time on Saturdays and Sundays and help out on another farm together with their mother. This income should bring the family through the Corona crisis. In the long term, however, this is not a solution.

The money comes just in time. The teachers of the two of them call, they would like to see the homework of Jhon and Jhoel. So to complete the school year, they need a mobile phone or laptop - luxury items in the Andean villages. Jhon is lucky. He can buy an old, affordable mobile phone. It is enough, even if the screen keeps breaking down. Uploading homework costs 10 soles or about 2.55 francs a week. Especially in this situation that is a lot of money.

Peru must overcome the crisis as quickly as possible so that young people like Jhon and Jhoel can go back to school properly and build a future with Cuy breeding.


The partner organisations of terre des hommes switzerland are combating the spread of the virus with prevention and awareness raising measures in all 10 Latin American and African project countries. You can support us here.

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