Egleé Stanford shares the following detailed update on efforts to mitigate the malaria crisis among Jotï, Piaroa and Eñepa indigenous communities of the Venezuelan Amazon, as co-leader of the “Alleviating malaria in Venezuela” project.
We have bought and received by donation some medicines and medical supplies for the dispensaries at Kayama, Iguana and Betania de Topocho, the three Indian communities that are the focus of our aid efforts at this time. These items were mailed to the headquarters of Action for Solidarity in Miami from different parts of the U.S. This selfless and noble NGO then sent them to our workplace, the Laboratory at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research (IVIC) in Caracas where we have the items stored, ready for distribution to the communities.
Thanks to the diligence of an old friend and ally, Daniel, the Swiss company Vestergaard has kindly offered to donate 3,000 mosquito nets for hammocks impregnated with insecticide to our project. We had initially contacted them in order to buy the mosquito nets, but when they learned our purpose, they agreed to provide them free of charge. In July, we received definite notification of this generous donation, on the condition that we guarantee the means and resources to transport the nets from the port of Haiphong, Vietnam to Venezuela.
At the end of August, once we were assured, based on your generous donations, that we would have enough funds to pay for the transport and customs fees, we informed Vestergaard that we were able to meet their conditions. We also drew up a special design for nets made for use with hammocks of the approximate size and dimensions used in the three communities. Vestergaard commenced the manufacturing process in early September and informed us that the nets would be ready by early October. Now, they are waiting to be shipped!
We contacted several shipping companies about this job, and settled on one that had successfully delivered mosquito nets to Venezuela in the recent past, Next Day Cargo, Inc., based in Florida, U.S.A
The cost to deliver the nets as far as Caracas, Venezuela is US$4785.60, and the estimated time from pick-up in Vietnam to delivery in Caracas is 80 days. As with all expenses, we will not touch the money personally: Global Diversity Foundation will continue to diligently and kindly manage the funds, and will pay the shippers directly. So, the money saved in acquiring the nets by donation will be used to ship them to Venezuela and then on to the three remote communities. Both transportation processes are very costly.
After the international shipping to Caracas, we still need to deliver the nets to the three communities. Only one, Betania de Topocho, can be reached by land transport. Iguana and Kayama are only accessible by air or literally weeks of walking, an impossible task in view of the quantity, volume and weight of the nets. Given that the planes that enter these isolated remote communities have a limited capacity of 350-400 kilograms of cargo, we will need around four (4) flights in all. The estimated cost of each flight is US$1,800-2,000 (costs to the two communities are slightly different due to different distances from the airports). Totaldelivery costs exceed the amount you have helped us raise to date by about $2,000, or the cost of one flight to deliver the final 500-600 nets.
Also in mid-July, Stephen of the International Rotary Club graciously donated 200 mosquito nets made for beds. These are destined for those families at Betania who sleep in beds, rather than hammocks. These nets are already in Venezuela, but not yet in Amazon State. We planned to deliver those nets in the latter part of August, but were unable to do so because of flooding. The rainy season has been particularly strong this year, and by mid-August the Orinoco River had risen to such an extent that it was almost 19 meters above its normal level, the highest level ever recorded. The high water flooded some of the main riverine cities (Puerto Ayacucho, Caicaradel Orinoco, Ciudad Bolívar) and many small towns along its banks, as well as roads and bridges. Ferry crossings connecting the northern and southern sides of the river were also flooded, and the ferries shut down. A bridge on the highway between Betania and the location of the nets was totally washed out. There was simply no way to move the mosquito nets to the community or deliver the medical items andother supplies that we had collected.
In sum, our plan is to proceed with the delivery of the nets and other supplies as quickly as funds permit, once the nets being shipped from Vietnam are safely inside the country.