Interview with Yordy Bermúdez, Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) Officer at Azul Positivo
By Andrea Pacheco, Protection Officer at Oxfam
YB: Hello, my name is Yordy Bermúdez and I am a member of the Azul Positivo team. I work as MEAL coordinator for the project implemented with Oxfam.
AP: Thank you, Yordy. What was the context in which Azul Positivo developed its community response strategy to the COVID-19 pandemic in the communities where the activities are carried out?
YB: We are currently assisting six communities in the Zulia State, implementing training workshops for community health promoters. One of the modules of this workshop is “Development of community projects”, which focuses on the needs and interests of the communities that are being assisted in the COVID-19 context. The module trains men and women from several age groups so that they can identify the problems in their communities, set objectives and suggest solutions. The six communities have made great contributions, and they are exploring strategies to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their population.
AP: In this regard, Yordy, how is the pandemic affecting the communities where the response is being implemented? Has the virus spread? How were the communities facing the situation before the implementation of the project?
YB: It has been a great challenge here, as the COVID-19 pandemic is compounded by other issues, like the lack of water or people’s limited resources to buy items like soap, which is essential for handwashing. Failure to wear face masks is also contributing to the spreading of the virus in these communities. In the face of this situation, the communities have identified options and solutions during the training modules to minimise the impact of the virus. I should also mention the lack of petrol, and the political situation, as people are being polarised in Venezuela, and we could be labelled as “enemies”. This is a challenge that needs to be mitigated in the communities. Little by little, we have faced the political leaders and engaged in a dialogue with them. We showed them that our position is not political, and that our goal is to support the communities and alleviate the situation they are facing.
AP: In which area are these communities located in the Zulia State? What is current situation in the Zulia State, bearing in mind that a few weeks ago it was the source of infection at national level?
YB: The Zulia State is divided in terms of flexibility and quarantine measures. There are border municipalities between Colombia and Venezuela, and they are perceived as an entry point of people infected with COVID-19 from Colombia. In these municipalities a “radical quarantine” is applied, with restrictions for daily activities. Azul Positivo is in Maracaibo, and we currently have flexibility until 5pm, so we can work a bit more. One of the communities that we are supporting is in San Francisco, and another one in Mara, where we have faced greater challenges and where the official leaders see us as a threat. However, we have explained to them the nature of our work, and we have managed to establish a relationship with some bodies from the Zulia State, as the Regional Health Coordination Office. We have worked as well with communal police, in collaboration with some mayors, which allowed us to stay in several communities as the official leaders don’t see us anymore as a threat. They can see that we are neither in their favour nor against them. Our team has applied the principle that we need to work for the people, whoever they are: red, blue, green… we need to work for the people.