The Amazonian indigenous peoples, through the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Amazon (Confeniae) today have a link that they update regularly to know the progress of COVID-19 in their peoples.
Before this registry, there was no public information about the advance of COVID-19 in the 11 Amazonian nationalities in Ecuador, which now have almost 2,000 infections according to Confeniae. These are communities that live in a situation of vulnerability due to the limited presence of public services such as access to health and water.
Andrés Tapia, Confeniae communication leader, recalls that in each press conference, statement and spokesperson of the government leaders, the request for disaggregated information on the impact of COVID-19 on the Amazonian indigenous people was insisted upon. But, in the absence of an effective response, they made their own record.
Now we can know, for example, that the Kiwchua, Shuar and Waorani nationalities are the most affected by COVID-19, exceeding more than 300 cases. This helps to know where to target humanitarian aid.
Tapia tells us about the ant's work of data collection. The interview was edited for brevity.
Carlos Flores: Please, Andrés, tell us about this initiative to monitor COVID-19 in the Amazon towns of Ecuador.
Andrés Tapia: We have designed this tool seeing the deficiency to provide official information from the State. For several months after the start of the pandemic, there was practically no official notification of the impact that COVID-19 can have on indigenous territories. So, seeing this flaw, we ourselves undertook the task of being able to systematize all the COVID-19 records in a database. First, (the data) emerged from alerts in each of the territories, then they were confirmed with rapid tests and, later, the vast majority with PCR tests that we have done with several universities. After having this record we have been publishing it through an infographic, twice a week. (Then), we saw that it is also necessary to provide information disaggregated by territory and nationality. That is where the idea of generating this platform arose.
CF: And is there still an absence of disaggregated data on COVID-19 and the Amazonian peoples that the Government must offer?
AT: There is information of a more internal nature that the Ministry of Public Health shares with us where it is disaggregated, but they still do not present it as official public information. So, officially, there is still no visibility of the ministry's data. The only one you are really seeing (the data issue) is the one we are providing (us). Of course, we also receive information from the territory of several health districts (of the ministry) that are also part of our registry.
CF: Andrés, the person who enters the web that you have created, what is he going to find?
AT: We have built this platform together with Amazon Watch, ALDEA Foundation, and the Institute of Geography of the University of San Francisco. But it is worth remembering that the data comes from tests that we have carried out with the University of the Americas, the University of San Francisco and also with the health districts, in coordination. The tool is in Spanish and English and also has a mobile version, an application. The data are disaggregated by territory, that is, by province (Amazon) and by each of the nationalities. You can see how many positive cases there are, how many suspects, how many cases are negative, how many recovered, how many confirmed Covid deaths and how many presented symptoms, how many tests have been carried out and the update date. There is also a map that shows us the number of cases by territory (of the six Amazonian provinces) and by nationality.
CF: Could you give us some technical details about the platform and how the data is fed?
AT: Well, it's based on ArcGIS, a geo-referenced, geo-referenced platform. The technical part can be explained by colleagues who are geographers, I have a profession as a biologist and I have been the one who has been systematizing the data, perhaps it is the most difficult part (…) We receive the results from the universities with which we work. We feed that into the database that is Excel, from our database as Confeniae. This information is uploaded to the ArcGIS platform tool and is automatically updated on our website, where we have a tab called “Covid Monitoring”. We make this public two to three times a week, on Facebook, Twitter, on all of our platforms that we have (…) So, there we go to see the number of reports. In addition, it gives you a percentage of how much percent of cases has risen between those two or three days that elapse between one report and another. We have seen a growth behavior of 5% to 7% daily. But, for example, (also) we have seen that in July the cases increased by 50%. We started with 1200 cases and we are already close to 2000, starting in August.
CF: What do you plan to do with this collected data?
AT: What we are trying to do is that, first, the data allow us to make the right decisions about social assistance to the affected families. In other words, with the positive data, we can say that these families must be supported with food rations, among others, but on the other hand, show the State that this should be the type of help. That is, there is a territory with 80% of infections so it needs priority attention. The data will always give us that argument, that technical support to support public health actions.
CF: So, some decisions have already been made on this issue. Not from the Government but as a community. With the data they have begun to take action.
AT: So is. We have acted permanently, providing social and humanitarian aid to our communities based obviously on the results as well. Already from the State there has really been a very poor response. Although we have been able to coordinate the taking of tests with the doctors in the health districts (of the Ministry of Health), already in the part of public policies as such, in humanitarian assistance, it has really been quite deficient.