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Native Future’s Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Greetings from the Native Future team. I hope this message finds you and yours safe and sound. Over the past few weeks we have all seen uncertainty and fear unfold in our lives and in our communities as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. This virus does not respect national or community borders and has started its exponential spread in Panama. It has the potential to devastate Indigenous communities and families. All of us at Native Future want to assure you that we are committed to alleviating the impact of this pandemic on the lives of our Indigenous partners.

Panama has instituted nationwide quarantine measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 while anticipating multiple waves of community outbreak. Most Indigenous communities are trying to close themselves off completely prohibiting travel in and out of the community – to stop the contagion. Yet, the virus is spreading. The Ministry of Health is tracking Covid-19’s spread here.

At this time, quarantine is a wise and necessary public health measure. However, it will take a heavy toll on food security and family income in communities that already struggle with poverty and malnutrition. Formal and informal supply chains are interrupted. Public transportation has come to a stop, nation-wide. Many families in rural communities depend economically on relatives who are working in the city; most are now unemployed. And urban relatives who rely on their rural farms for food crops cannot reach them. Project Coordinator, Hector Osorio, who is from the remote community of Rio Hondo explains, “The kioscos (community stores) are running out of basic supplies." Families will be without basics like oil and salt for cooking and rice. The stores will run out of soaps and disinfectants, pain relievers and fever reducers.

Another critical need is communication. Community leaders and health assistants need to be able to send and receive health information and messages to coordinate aid while they are under quarantine. While many have cell phone coverage, phone credit can run out quickly and even if they have money to purchase pre-paid phone cards they would have to leave their community to do so, further exposing themselves and their communities to the virus.

Here are the immediate steps we are taking to help our Indigenous partners mitigate the impacts of this pandemic. We are redirecting discretionary funds to help meet communications, food, health and hygiene needs.

We are working with a growing network of Indigenous leaders and Panamanians coordinating the communications and delivery of food, health and hygiene supplies to Indigenous communities. A bag of supplies for a family costs approximately $30.

Remotely, we are finding ways to “top off” the cell phones of Indigenous leaders and community healthcare workers to ensure health, safety and food security information and messages are being sent and received. A $5.00 top-off provides a week of unlimited data.

In this effort, Native Future is asking each of our donors to consider making an immediate emergency donation in the amount of $100. All donations made through June 2020 will go directly to helping our partners on the ground meet the basic needs of their communities. Any amount helps!

Please donate today to help us take immediate action for our Indigenous partners. You can also send checks payable to Native Future, 34 Taylor St, Portland, ME, 04102.

As always, I want to thank you for your commitment and concern for the future of Wounaan and Ngäbe Buglé communities. Please consider making an emergency donation today so we can help our Indigenous partners mitigate the impacts of this crisis on their families and communities.

Marsha Kellogg

Executive Director 

Native Future

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