By Fiona Ip (Courtesy of AHF)
Four months after the novel COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, millions of people around the world, especially the most marginalized communities, continue to be left without the most basic provisions.
But one community-based organization in the Dominican Republic (DR), with support from the AHF Fund, has gone above and beyond to deliver over 1,000 food, medicine, and other necessity rations to impoverished residents throughout 10 bateyes (pronounced BAH-tay, meaning shanty-town settlements, home to mostly Haitian migrant workers and their families). The deliveries were made after Light a Candle Foundation (FEUL) prioritized the most isolated bateyes that had no access to food, pharmacies, or health facilities.
“Even before the pandemic, many people in bateyes were forced to live day-by-day, selling items on the street, in a market or through daily manual labor,” said Massiel Ruiz, AHF Dominican Republic Country Program Manager. “But now, migrants are not permitted to work like before due to COVID-19. They receive no government assistance as a safety net, and the small stores and food vendors have all gone away. We applaud FEUL’s efforts—they have made a tremendous difference in people’s lives with this much-needed support.”
During this distribution, FEUL was able to reach more than 800 families with education on COVID-19 prevention and items ranging from rice, beans, and flour to protective masks, vitamins, and soap. Condoms were also distributed to sexually active people over the age of 17 and to heads of families who were not using contraceptives.
“In addition to residents being extremely vulnerable economically, they also have no access to health services or condoms,” added Ruiz. “By partnering with FEUL we have helped share the importance of HIV prevention through education, testing, and condom distribution. We hope to be able to continue providing condoms via dispensers, as well as educational materials within bateyes to increase awareness of HIV/STI prevention measures.”
Bateyes were first created in the early 1900s when Haitian sugar cane cutters would cross the DR border in hopes of finding work. Today, these settlements remain largely unchanged—most still do not have bathrooms or electricity, potable water, and education and healthcare services are rare.