COVID-19 Updates from NPH
During this global threat, the NPH family continues to ensure essential food and care for the most vulnerable and needy in our society.
To learn more about one of NPH homes, including COVID-19/Coronavirus updates, click it on the map.
Latin America remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. We feel it both more strongly and drawing closer. We are already affected in most homes by COVID-19 and the task of preventing it becomes increasingly difficult. There are three important reasons why COVID is gaining ground exponentially in Latin America. First of all, the informal economy. People work day-to-day in informal employment; what they earn in a day is what they bring home. Therefore, health regulations for this sector are minimal or cannot be applied. Secondly, there is no healthful, efficient means of public transportation. People move about without taking protective measures and thus have high levels of exposure. In many communities, public transportation that people usually take has been closed because authorities cannot guarantee to be able to stop the spread of mass contagion inherent in the characteristics of these forms of travel. Third, highly deficient public and private health systems. While time was gained to bolster severe quarantine measures in preparation for this pandemic, this sector remains very weak. As usual, corruption has caused many government COVID-19 resources to be diverted from their intended use.
Therefore, our outlook remains uncertain. The situation in our region is volatile.
On the other hand, we have seen that nearly 40% of people who are infected are not experiencing symptoms; this is a serious problem.
Most NPH staff go through a quarantine period or pass health surveys prior to entering the homes in order to assess their health status and look for symptoms for COVID-19; however, there are a few who report to work, go through the quarantine protocol, but because they present no symptoms they then start to work with children or vulnerable populations. While others who are infected may, in fact, experience symptoms or present severe forms of the disease; this, too, is a complex challenge.
Therefore, we are recommending that all personnel wear a mask continually, even within the residences, as an extra measure of protection.
Because of these three key factors, we have seen an increase in the number of children within NPH now infected with the virus. We are seeing small outbreaks and this causes us concern. We want to stress, however, that all outbreaks thus far have been contained; all patients are receiving timely and attentive care; all infected patients report to be in stable condition and are progressing nicely. Most patients present minor infectious disease symptoms, though we have one case that was hospitalized in critical condition. According to the latest reports, we are relieved to share the patient is now on the path to recovery; this news brings us joy.
Because COVID-19 is now present in almost all communities in the countries where NPH operates and because our employees enter and leave the homes, it stands to reason that the COVID-19 virus will continue to enter the residences. Though strict “biosecurity” and prevention protocols continue to be enforced, including quarantine periods and measures taken to contain widespread outbreaks in the residences, the task is complex and requires many human and economic resources.
We have seen homes that have had to replace entire teams of staff due to small outbreaks, employees ready to go to work who must return home because they present too many risk factors, the need to hire more nurses, plus the growing need to buy rapid tests, more personal protective equipment, hygiene and disinfection supplies, COVID medications, order additional laboratory tests for patients whose cases seem to be taking a turn for the worse, and many more actions that comprise this complex work within the homes.
Protecting the most vulnerable and unprotected people in our society is a huge task. People who are socially disadvantaged have no voice and little representation. They need our help—today. So NPH aspires to continue to provide answers in Latin America by performing humanitarian work, delivering quality services, and providing a light of hope for thousands of families who fear the worst in these difficult times that we all face.
We think July and August will be months of great challenge. We cannot forecast future circumstances in view of the current landscape.
We therefore ask our community to remain close, to strengthen ties of collaboration and solidarity, and for our leaders to join forces to confront this common enemy.
We appreciate and highlight the incredible work that National Directors do each day as the head of homes and community programs. We know their jobs are 24/7 and, for this reason, we encourage them, motivate them, and wish them an abundance of strength.
We continue to call for national unity and international solidarity. Keep the NPH family in your prayers—especially people and children who are suffering from this disease today—and remain steadfast in the fight for underprivileged societies in Latin America.
Update from Dr. Edwin Vallecillo
Director of Medical Services, NPH International
June 18, 2020
Latin America is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and more than 100,000 new cases per day are still being reported globally. Three months since COVID 19 was declared a Pandemic, in the countries where NPH operates, Peru and Mexico report the highest number of cases per week. In Guatemala and Bolivia there is a significant increase in its weekly report of new cases. After three months of severe quarantines and drastic containment measures, it is natural for people to desire a return to certain basic activities, especially in countries that have demonstrated adequate capacity to reduce transmission chains. Nonetheless, the threat remains real and continues in our communities.
Most communities in the surrounding areas where NPH is present or in its immediate vicinity report confirmed cases of COVID-19, i.e. the virus is already in nearby communities and its transmission is getting easier and more unexpected.
Healthy and safe environments continue to exist in NPH homes even despite the report of three positive cases in one of the residences, however, local medical services, and the help of health experts has been put at the service of these cases and they all receive adequate vigilance and treatment. We can safely say that we do not have major outbreaks inside homes, and that biosecurity protocols and containment mechanisms remain in place and have allowed us to quickly control any possible outbreaks. So far, no new cases have been reported in addition to the staff who have been affected. The NNA who had confirmed cases have experienced good medical evolution, without any complications and are mostly overcoming this virus with nothing to regret.
Local health teams remain vigilant, temperatures are taken every day, symptomatic cases are investigated each day, social distancing is practiced, staff wear masks, and measures such as quarantines and surveys are applied to conduct surveillance with essential personnel, among other measures that continue to ensure an adequate response and that the virus has not caused further harm to NPH residences.
All homes have identified locations for isolation and treatment of patients with mild illness or suspected illness, and have developed action plans to be prepared for different scenarios.
At NPH we are still preparing, although we are already feeling the pressure of the economy, although governments’ speeches are changing and although in our region this virus is just starting to hit hard and to some extent it seems that the problem and its severity are to be seen.
After four months there is collective exhaustion and the matrix of information and communication is changing, so we want to stress that our region is more vulnerable than ever. We are listening to reports of hospitals that are already collapsing, and the dead are telling the story that is not to be told.
We call on all to keep practicing all preventive measures against this virus, we call on everyone to not to let our guard down, to continue to practice and implement all the necessary measures to keep the spaces safe, to carry out an adequate balance between health and economy, and to be the most resilient possible because the task is hard and we still have a way to go.
It is not too late to implement measures if they have not yet been implemented, it is not too late to adapt our responses, it is not too late to rethink the strategy, the most important lesson is to be aware that the strategy and response must be analyzed every day and we must correct our decisions for the benefit of the populations we protect.
We continue to call for national unity and international solidarity, and to keep the channels of communication open.
We ask and pray for all the people in our community who suffer from this disease, we ask for their successful recovery, we desire strength to all people in the world who have lost family and who are fighting against this evil, God be always their guardian.
NPH Peru received a generous donation of food and hygiene supplies from BANCO DE ALIMENTOS Peru.
(Peruvian law prohibits using photos that show the faces of minors.)
Update from Dr. Edwin Vallecillo
Director of Medical Services, NPH International
June 8, 2020
Latin America is now the epicenter of the pandemic and 13 weeks have passed since the first cases were announced in the countries where NPH operates. This has allowed us to learn about the pandemic and has provided us with time to prepare, but our region remains very vulnerable. The pandemic will surely impact us in many unexpected ways.
All NPH homes continue under red alert. Under this protocol, NNAs (boys, girls, and adolescents; in Spanish niños, niñas y adolescentes) do not leave the NPH homes until further notice. Essential personnel enter and leave from the residence according to operational needs. There is temperature monitoring and evaluation of respiratory symptoms at the entrances of all the homes. All automobiles are disinfected upon entering. All purchases, orders, and products are disinfected at the main entrance of the homes, and drivers entering and leaving the homes wear masks, gloves, and carry hand sanitizer at all times. We have canceled large activities and gatherings over 50 people. Some houses practice social distancing at Mass and other meetings. NNAs and their caregivers move around the homes internally in small groups, trying to avoid mingling with other groups unnecessarily. Schools remain closed and homework is done at home. Essential staff receive health monitoring via telephone during their rest time outside of the homes.
All homes continue to follow health protocols and are working under the guidance of local health teams. We continue to focus on prevention. Local health teams hold meetings and webinars with NPHI Medical Services to receive guidance at all times on actions to be taken to protect our children and staff in a coordinated manner.
Health teams, home leaders, and all our collaborators are carrying out an enormous task: to maintain healthy environments within our homes and a healthy coexistence in these difficult times.
According to our COVID-19 tracker, Peru and Mexico continue to be the countries most affected by the pandemic. All NPH homes report confirmed cases in the surrounding communities.
In the NPH community, we have received reports of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19. A Standing Pandemic Team has been formed to address this issue, to provide necessary advice and monitoring, and take appropriate and early action to keep our homes safe. We would like to emphasize that this team will be responsible for analyzing each case and providing information. The Standing Pandemic Team is led by Dr. Edwin Vallecillo, NPHI’s Director of Medical Services, who is assisted by a team of NPH experts who provide information to our entire community, while respecting the privacy of our family and its needs.
The Latin American region is now facing other emergencies, such as the usual epidemics of dengue and zika. Now after a dry summer we are experiencing excessive rainfall from the El Niño phenomenon, which further complicates response scenarios in the region.
The NPHI Medical Services team continues to monitor the pandemic. Rest assured, however, that our usual services such as vaccinations, treatment of children with chronic diseases, well-child checkups, deworming campaigns, drug and medicine procurement, neurological and psychiatric consultations, and many other activities continue to be delivered to our children, sometimes in creative ways owing to the circumstances.
We continue to call for national unity and international solidarity. We call on our leaders to bring us together and to guide us to maintain unity and calm, to allow us to be guided by the best versions of ourselves, and that we do not lose our way in these times of uncertainty.
For Latin America, this pandemic is just beginning to gain ground. But at the same time, we know the disease better, there are more treatment options, and there is encouraging news about vaccines. So, let us not despair. Let’s recognize that we still have a long, hard way to go. We ask that you join us as a loving family on this path.
We ask for your prayers and well wishes for all of our family who suffer from this virus. Pray for their healing. And pray for our planet and its leaders so that we may gradually move towards our “normal” again.
Thank you very much.
Photo above: Computer lab at NPH Guatemala
Update from Dr. Edwin Vallecillo
Director of Medical Services, NPH International
May 12, 2020
The countries where NPH operates move between week 7 and week 10 from the start of COVID-19 contagion, and COVID-19 continues to claim lives and gain ground. Mexico and Peru report high number of new cases at the country level. At the NPH homes, there are no positive or suspected reported case to this date, however, COVID surrounds our homes and we are feeling closer and closer. Therefore, we continue to orient so that training in prevention to personnel is increased, that prevention measures continue to be applied according to each model and capacity, and that we do not let our guard down. The homes continue to analyze how to respond to possible scenarios, the countries that reported significant spikes in cases were from week 12, and our countries are approaching those weeks. We hope that all the measures that we can continue to implement will keep us away from the virus, and we continue to call for internal unity and international solidarity.
Thank you for your support.
Update from Dr. Jacqueline Gautier
NPH Haiti National Director for St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and St. Kay Germaine
May 11, 2020
The first documented case of COVID-19 died at St. Damien May 9, 2020. She was a 3-years, 9-month-old girl, born with a heart defect (Tetralogy of Fallot) who presented at the hospital last week. Previously she was receiving care for her heart condition at Mirebalais Hospital in central Haiti. She came with a history of fever and lethargy. On exam she had signs or pulmonary infections with marked cyanosis (part of her heart problem). She then developed neurological signs becoming comatose. She received antibiotics and other drugs for her heart condition. Then she was ventilated by ambu bag. Because the family revealed that many people in the household were coughing, the ICU staff asked for a COVID test. The result came back positive after the girl died.
This case showed the importance to include more children into the surveillance for COVID at St. Damien. With more information shared by the international pediatric community, we started to plan accordingly and are assessing for adjustments. However COVID tests are only done for the moment at the national laboratory, so they are not yet readily available. We are continuing our advocacy for easier access to testing to capture more cases early.
Also the medical staff is keeping abreast of the latest technical information on COVID-19 through webinars and the help of our international pediatric partners. As the pandemic is entering its more active phase in Haiti, we are expecting more cases being presented at St. Damien. During the last three day, up to 31 cases were confirmed each day compared to 2 to 5 each day prior to that. Still it is clear that we must have more than the documented 181 cases total for the country.
We will continue our efforts to offer care to our vulnerable population and to keep the staff protected everywhere at the hospital. Our staff is courageous and vigilant!
Photo above: St. Damien staff are making masks in order to save money and ensure the hospital has a steady supply
April 3, 2020
The American volunteers who have served in Guatemala (5), Mexico (3), and Honduras (10) have all safely returned to the United States. These 18 volunteers were able to take military and emergency commercial flights back to the US. Already “homesick” for their respective NPH home, most of these volunteers are hopeful and looking forward to their reunion with the NPH kids, once this crisis subsides. There are 5 volunteers more who have decided to remain in Bolivia and Peru. After serious conversations and a strong request that they return to the US, they ultimately decided that it was in their best interest (and the interests of the homes) to stay in Bolivia and Peru. NPH USA cannot overstate how much we appreciate our dedicated, selfless volunteers—regardless of where they go, they will always be a vital part of the NPH family. Thank you, volunteers, for all that you are and for all that you do!
NPH is Grateful for All You Do
Frank Donaghue, President and Chief Executive Officer, NPH USA
March 31, 2020
On behalf of everyone at NPH USA, we wish for good health and safety for you and your family during this trying time. You are an important part of our global NPH family, and are in our daily thoughts. And, you are in the thoughts of our NPH children, with many of them asking how their godparents are doing.
We would like to extend our deep gratitude for your impact in ensuring happy futures for the thousands of NPH children in our care. As our NPH Honduras National Director Stephen O’Mahony so accurately stated, “Amid chaos, we stand united.”
It’s important for us to provide an update on the steps NPH is taking during this worldwide pandemic. We are taking urgent measures to ensure the highest standards for the children in the countries we serve, while adhering to recommended expert health guidelines to keep everyone–the children, staff and volunteers–safe. To date, we have had no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within our NPH family and are taking every precaution to remain healthy while preparing for the possibility.
- All the NPH children living in our homes and NPH staff and volunteers have been quarantined, and no visitors are being allowed into the homes
- Children have been instructed on how to practice social distancing within the homes and educated on the importance of hand washing and other preventative tactics
- Our community outreach programs have been put on hold until it is declared safe for us to go out into the surrounding areas
- Medical staff within the areas we serve have received additional training and education on COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment protocols and safety guidelines
- Each NPH home is creating an emergency response plan in the event that an adult or child onsite exhibits symptoms of COVID-19
- Our NPH leadership, in conjunction with local governments where appropriate, is monitoring the situation hour by hour in order to enact additional proactive and reactive measures
We are confident in the work being done in our homes to keep our children safe as we navigate these difficult times. We continue to post timely information here on our website as well as on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NPHUSA/
Thank you again for your loving support. We are filled with gratitude and we could not do it without you. We will continue to update you with timely information and will keep you in our thoughts.
Photo above: Children at NPH Mexico with messages to their supporters
VIDEO: Be Strong
March 30, 2020
Protecting NPH Children from COVID-19
March 27, 2020
As COVID-19 starts to affect Latin America, NPH faces two immediate challenges:
- Maintaining all the services we provide to people, especially vulnerable children in our homes and surrounding communities.
- Preventing infection and preparing for the inevitable cases, not only among the children in our care, but also affecting those who work for NPH.
Healthcare systems in Latin America are fragile. Most countries have fewer than 100 intensive care beds. Consequently, preventing the spread of the virus is the key to overcoming it.
NPH is focusing on the following measures against coronavirus:
Guaranteeing the Supply of Food and Medicine
NPH is working to guarantee the supply of food and medicines to the thousands of children in our care in Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. These include antipyretics to reduce fever, pain killers, anti-inflammatories, surgical gloves, anti-bacterial soap, and thermometers. We also need to ensure the same supplies for St. Damien Pediatric Hospital in Haiti, which provides more than 80,000 services each year.
Keeping Clean to Prevent the Spread of the Virus
NPH is working hard to make sure that children take care of themselves by washing their hands thoroughly and avoiding physical contact as far as possible. We’re also ensuring that our medical staff have the necessary anti-bacterial products and surgical gloves.
Raising Awareness about the Virus
NPH healthcare experts are running an awareness-raising campaign with children, staff and volunteers about coronavirus, its symptoms, prevention and treatment.
Keeping Movements to a Minimum
NPH is limiting the movements of all those who work with us: our childcare, administrative and cleaning staff, and international volunteers, as well as our university students.
Focus on Children with Special Needs
We are paying particular attention to children in our care who have special needs and in some cases are less able to recognise symptoms or take the necessary measures to care for themselves.
Quarantine in Case of Suspected Infection
Anyone – child or adult – thought to be infected with coronavirus will be put into quarantine immediately.
Temporary Closure of the International Volunteer Program
If you are interested in volunteering at an NPH home, you are welcome to contact us. Please note that for the time being, we are not sending any volunteers abroad.
How You Can Help
The virus is creating challenges for everyone, everywhere, but fragile healthcare systems exacerbate the threat in Latin America and the Caribbean. If you can help, please make a donation to ensure that we can fend off the threat of COVID-19 and maintain our vital childcare services.
Photos above: Children washing their hands at NPH Honduras and preparing hand sanitizer at NPH Haiti
Coming Together to Face a Global Crisis
Dr. Edwin Vallecillo
Director of Medical Services, NPH International
March 17, 2020
While we see some people rush to make “panic purchases,” we also see whole families who simply entrust their fate to God, asking for the best for their families because they have no ability to buy the basics for each day. While all this happens, the NPH family continues to ensure essential food and care for the most vulnerable and needy in our society.
COVID-19 has demanded the full attention of the entire globe. Our family is alarmed as we struggle to understand all that is happening so quickly around us.
Though we may be inclined to argue right and wrong decisions at this time, we simply have to follow the recommendations of health experts, assume good intentions, and each of us must make the best decision in the moment in light of personal and family interests. Now is not the time to judge. It is the time to be supportive and humble in the face of this threat that terrifies and distresses us.
Our complex chains of professional relationships and brotherhood are being tested. In this critical moment we are called to practice solidarity with more determination than ever before.
This solidarity means, in order to protect the most vulnerable in our society, seemingly extreme and uncomfortable measures must be taken urgently.
Our leaders must be proactive, anticipate scenarios, and take appropriate action. This is no time to hesitate. It is better to overadjust than to suffer a devastating blow. In the face of the cascade of strong government reactions that we are seeing, we cannot guarantee that we will be immune to this disease—that we will not see it within our ranks.
We send words of support and our deep appreciation to the essential staff of our homes who, at this time of difficulty, are taking on extra tasks. They are separated from their families for longer periods of time. In their eagerness to safeguard our vulnerable children, they answer the call to serve.
Our kitchens continue operating. Our caregivers continue to protect our children. Drivers, maintenance personnel, and suppliers continue to do their jobs. Health personnel are on constant alert and ready to respond. To all these daily heroes, we send our heartfelt appreciation.
However, we know there are countless collaborators who behind the scenes are working to sustain and support our family, in spite of the strong blows that each of our local economies and our family are already suffering.
We thank the volunteers residing in our homes, who have made the decision to continue to support our family despite the uncertainty that afflicts us all.
The response to the current circumstances varies in each country where NPH is, as does the context by which certain measures are applied. However, we want to present the latest news.
According to the health protocol of NPHI, Haiti, Nicaragua, and El Salvador remain without confirmed cases of COVID-19 and without alarm. Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Bolivia remain at Yellow Alert. Honduras and Peru are at Red Alert.
Regarding government measures, we mention the following:
El Salvador, Honduras, and Peru have completely closed their borders.
Guatemala has closed its borders almost entirely, including travel to and from Canada and the United States.
Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Mexico, Haiti, and Nicaragua have partially closed their borders, in particular for Europe and Asia.
These measures can change from day to day, for example, in just 48 hours we may see an approach go from mild to extreme, all because of how quickly the virus spreads.
NPHI will recommend a package of urgent measures to be put before the General Assembly for immediate acceptance and implementation.
According to the United Nations we share this planet with nearly eight billion people. This is a world where information travels fast. It is a globalized planet, where we see increasing advances in health and life expectancy, as well as greater respect for life and richer humanity regardless of age. We also note that the planet is determined to take necessary measures to safeguard life and health; therefore, in these times of pandemic and uncertainty, the value of life and respect for the universal right to healthcare are rights that we, too, declare and reaffirm.
This path of pandemic that we are now traveling is unknown, but we have confidence that, united as a family, we will overcome this tough test facing our NPH family and all the families of the world. We all long to see the sun on the horizon and know the end of this ordeal is near. Eventually it will come.
Meanwhile, in the Latin American region, considering our fragile healthcare systems and considering that most countries have fewer than 100 intensive care beds, extreme measures will be observed. We must all practice solidarity, practice prevention, stay home, protect ourselves, and take personal responsibility to break the chains of contagion of this dangerous virus.
Let us keep in our prayers all those families who have lost loved ones to this virus and pray for the families who are fighting right now in the face of this tragedy.
Updates will be posted here when available.
• “A message from Bob Costas” – April 7, 2020
• “NPH Dominican Republic: We’ll Get Through This Together” – April 1, 2020
• “NPH El Salvador: COVID-19: A Physician Faces Her Greatest Challenge” – March 31, 2020
• “NPH Peru: Volunteers Lift Spirits Under Quarantine” – March 31, 2020
• “NPH Haiti and St. Luke Prepare for COVID-19” – March 27, 2020
• “NPH Bolivia: Staying Busy During Quarantine” – March 26, 2020
• “NPH Mexico Adopts COVID-19 Safeguards While Upholding the Call to Serve” – March 26, 2020
• “NPH Honduras: Amid Chaos, We Stand United” – March 24, 2020
• “NPH Honduras Highlights Its Heroes Amid the Coronavirus Crisis” – March 20, 2020
• “NPH El Salvador Children Send Love to Virus Sufferers” – March 20, 2020
• “NPH Dominican Republic Takes Preventive Measures To Protect Children” – March 20, 2020
• BLOG by William Stavinoha, MD: Neighbors Far Away – March 20, 2020