The feat of a Peruvian woman who had to walk – along with her three daughters – more than 600 kilometers to be able to return to her home in the Amazon, fleeing death and famine. by COVID-19, it shocks the world.
María Tambo left her home in Chaparnaranja, a remote Amazonian town, to move with her three daughters to the city of Lima. The oldest of them, Amelie, had obtained a scholarship to study at the Scientific University of the South, in the Peruvian capital.
Upon arriving in Lima, she rented a room for all of them and got money working in a restaurant. However, their plans faded when the coronavirus pandemic arrived .
In Peru, where almost 70% of the population works in the underground or informal economy confinement caused first the disappearance of most of the jobs and, later, that many families ran out of money to pay the rent or their food.
This was the case of María, who after almost two months of quarantine, had no money left to pay for the rented room or food, and due to the lack of resources to survive , had no choice but to return home.
Along with Amelie and the other two little ones, Yacira and Melec, set out on the road to their town, located more than 600 kilometers away from Lima, in the Amazon region of Ucayali.
But, with public transport closed, the only option they had was to do the tour on foot a desperate decision, but one that became the only possibility .
“I know the danger I am putting my children in, but I have no other choice. Either I die trying to get out of here or I starve to death in my room “said Tombo, quoted by El Confidencial.
A road full of dangers
María was recounting her story while traveling along day and night. A journey full of obstacles and dangers that he had to carry carrying on his back his little girl, Melec, and trying to take care of Yacira, who was only seven years old.
The family was not alone. Thousands more Peruvians were on the road desperate to flee the pandemic and the loss of income.
Apart from the 600 kilometers, which in itself represented a very difficult journey, María and her three daughters had to cross a part of the Andes region, at high altitude before reaching the Amazon jungle.
In addition to the dangers of the road, the Tambo family also had She had to avoid the police checkpoints that try to prevent the residents of Lima, the epicenter of the coronavirus, from spreading the virus to rural areas.
María reported that fear invaded her and had to lying to the authorities in order to continue on her way, since she was willing to do whatever it took to save her daughters.
“You cannot go here with children,” said the police officer, and Tambo replied: ” I’m just going back to my farm, in Chaparnaranja, where I’ve already been last One week, “CNN reported.
In the midst of the chaos, there were gestures of solidarity : a driver offered them food, a trucker offered to take them between two towns just at the moment when they were in full mountains at more than 4,500 meters of altitude. However, María and her three daughters walked almost the entire route to return home as soon as possible.
“I thought I would die with my daughters”
After seven long days and almost 500 kilometers, María and her daughters arrived in the Ucayali region where the Ashaninka indigenous people live, a place very close to their destination.
But there they had to overcome a new obstacle, entry into that territory was prohibited by the coronavirus so they had What to negotiate: they would let them pass in exchange for the four women isolating themselves for 14 days.
Finally, María, Amelie, Yacira and Melec arrived in their town. Shattered, but happy . Kafet, the father of the family, and the grandfather went to receive them, but despite the immense joy that produced seeing them arrive safely on their return, they had to keep their distance, since no one could hug each other because of COVID-19.  María Tambo acknowledges that the way home “was very difficult, we suffered a lot”, and assured that she does not want to return to Lima. “ I thought I would die there with my daughters ,” she said.
Hunger and unemployment in Peru
The most unfortunate thing about the story of María Tombo and her three daughters is that is not an isolated case in Peru. Economic activity in the country sank 40.49% year-on-year in April, the worst monthly record in history, due to a national quarantine that slowed production and trade.
According to a statement from the state National Institute of Statistics and Informática (INEI), the Peruvian economy contracted 13.10% in the first four months of the year, while in the last twelve months until April it fell 2.63%.
In relation to unemployment , the INEI specified that the unemployment rate in the March-April-May quarter almost doubled, to 13.1% of the population of working age, compared to the same period last year.  According to the Institute, the employed population that is, who had a formal or informal job, fell 47.5% between March and May of this year, the months most severe of the quarantine.
Only in Lima, more than 2.3 million workers lost their empl eo since the state of emergency began to curb the wave of COVID-19 infections.
“The quarantine in the Peruvian case has been one of the most severe in the region, because we face structural problems such as informality ”, stated the Minister of Economy, María Antonieta Alva.
Food vulnerability is a chronic problem in Peru and the effects of the pandemic only make it even more acute. According to the latest report of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), published before the arrival of the pandemic, 21.2% of Peruvian households suffer from food vulnerability .
The President Martín Vizcarra acknowledged that the country is going through the biggest crisis in its history and that the “effect on the economy is only comparable to what was had in the Pacific War (with Chile), more than 100 years. ”
The scenario for Peru is not very encouraging. The health authorities reported that the country exceeded 240,000 cases and 7,500 deaths from the pandemic, figures with which it exceeded the number of positives for Italy, which accounts for 238,000
As of Friday, June 19, Peru is the second country most affected in Latin America by the COVID-19 outbreak, and the seventh globally.
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