Peru has the third highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world, with 967,075 confirmed cases and 36,076 deaths, including 195 children and adolescents, as of 2 December 2020. With a population of 32 million and only 1,436 ICU beds available nationwide, the health system is struggling to cope with the situation.
In response to the pandemic, on 16 March 2020, the Government of Peru declared a national state of emergency, extended to 7 March 2021, closed borders until October, and imposed a mandatory national quarantine that has been gradually lifted as of July. These actions have been complemented by various health regulations, the “I Learn at Home” remote mass public education strategy, social protection measures and an economic stimulus package. To date, close to 700 rural schools out of the total of 82,000 public schools nation-wide (including ECD centres) have opened through a specific regulation passed on October 2020.
During November, a national political crisis including impeachments and massive protests resulted three Presidents in one week, contributing to instability during the pandemic and temporarily paralyzing coordination efforts.
Meanwhile, the ILO reports a 10.5 per cent fall in the average actual income over the last year and predicts 1.5 million jobs lost by the end of December, while the Central Reserve Bank of Peru predicts a 12.7 per cent GDP contraction for 2020. UNICEF also projects that more than 1.2 million new children and adolescents will fall into poverty by the end of 2020, over 500,000 in extreme poverty (UNICEF, October2020).
The Government of Peru’s focus on the immediate socioeconomic response is not conducive to addressing structural challenges of the social protection system (UNICEF, September 2020), which increases the risks faced by the most vulnerable, especially women and girls, families living in poverty or headed by self-employed workers, whose livelihoods have been impacted by the quarantine, as well as indigenous communities with limited access to health services, and migrants and displaced people in overcrowded living conditions with limited or inexistent local support networks.