Pandemic increases isolation of Argentina’s desert children

by Sonia Avalos / Andrés Larrovere

Argentina’s coronavirus lockdown has closed schools nationwide and driven teaching online, but nowhere are the wasted weeks felt more keenly than in Huarpe indigenous communities in the far north, which have little access to the internet or distance education.

Around a thousand Huarpe families live in 11 communities scattered across the arid wasteland of northern Mendoza province.

Distance learning is out of reach for these desert communities, who live in simple dwellings and mostly subsist on raising goats.

“We are very far from the systems of communication, and this makes it impossible for my children and the children of neighbors to have access to the internet, and the communications that you in the city have around every corner,” said Jorge Lecinas, 40.

Many Huarpe families send their children away to school for several weeks a month. Others attend rural schools where they also get lunch.

But when the rural schools shut as the country went into mandatory quarantine on March 20, so did the meals from the ministry of education, drying up a vital means of nutrition for deprived children.

Argentina’s recession means 35 percent of the 44 million population is living below the poverty line, according to official statistics, and one in every three children is poor.

Among the Huarpes, all children are poor. (AFP)