By: Johanan Rivera, C.O.O.

Like many organizations over the past year, IMAGO went from the shock and anxiousness of the unknown, directly into a steep learning curve of new ways of servicing clients and interacting with each other. We eventually settled into a new routine, managing to increase our productivity and reach. 

Just as the pull towards normalcy grew stronger, the disparity between developed countries that are quickly vaccinating their populations against COVID-19 and developing countries that are lagging badly behind became a stark reality for IMAGO and some of our partners. The countries where we have staff presence embodied these stark differences. 

India’s first wave of COVID-19 infections peaked in September 2020, then began a steady decline. Given all of our work in the country, the “Indian miracle” reinvigorated our work in the region at the beginning of 2021. New infections began to tick up again in March, and every day since April 7th the country has recorded more new cases than at the height of its first wave. The second wave hit harder and deeper than expected, with the official numbers telling only part of the story.

On the other hand, early in the pandemic, Paraguay was recognized as an early success having enforced timely lockdowns and restrictions sooner than many of its South-American counterparts. However, a combination of government corruption, its weak procurement of vaccines and an overwhelmed healthcare system made it impossible for Paraguay to slow the spread and increase of deaths to record levels in the last trimester.  With vaccine supplies for only 5% of the population, in the last few weeks Paraguay became the highest Covid deaths per capita in the region over last week.(1)

This time around the pandemic hit peripheral towns and rural areas, where shortages of testing, health care workers, and oxygen overwhelmed members of the organizations we work with. The family, friends and neighbors of everyone in our network in India and Paraguay got sick. Some did not make it. Though the helplessness and grief made us feel tired and discouraged, we were able to have conversations that closed the distance, support partner organizations and our own staff in processing grief, while some members of our core staff directly organized social media campaigns for leads on intensive-care unit beds, experimental drugs and oxygen supplies. 

Though the past year has definitively given us an expanded understanding of flexibility, empathy and resilience, the last three months have been incredibly humbling and enlightening. Every oxygen tank became an invaluable win, reminding us that humanity is at the heart of community-led efforts.