Common pots prepared by neighbours feeding thousands in Peru

At dawn, Genoveva Satalaya and her neighbours walk through Limas food markets hoping to find a kind merchant who will donate food to help fill the “common pot” that is feeding their neighbourhood.

The survival strategy that first appeared in Perus capital during the countrys civil conflict four decades ago has been vital since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in this South American nation. With the country again under a lockdown, Satalayas pot is feeding 120 people, including seniors, children and pregnant women.

Satalaya and her neighbours prepare lunch Monday through Friday. There is not enough food for weekday breakfasts or dinners or weekend meals.


“We do not have meat, not even a tuna,” Satalaya, a 45-year-old mother of two, said Tuesday while she and her neighbours cooked rice and potatoes for lunch.

The common pots, also seen in other Latin American countries, have emerged as a symbol of the struggles of the region. Thousands of them are in use throughout Peru at levels not seen since the 1980s and 1990s during the armed conflict between the state and the Shining Path terrorist group.

Seventy per cent of the Peruvian labour force, including most residents of Satalayas neighbourhood, work in the informal economy and live by the motto: “If you do not work today, then you do not eat.” With no unemployment benefits and no possibilities to work from home, they eke out what they can as street vendors, turning many streets into makeshift food markets.

The uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus in Peru has been partly driven by the informal labour forces need to go to work every day. The second wave of cases currently sweeping through has pushed hospitals to the brink, with intensive care units reaching capacity. Peru has recorded more than 11 lakh cases and over 41,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus.

The pandemic also hit Perus economy hard, causing a 12-per cent drop in gross domestic product for 2020. The public health emergency left more than a third of Peruvians short of food due to a lack of money, forcing them to cook in groups, according to a June survey by the Institute for Peruvian Studies. In Latin America, some two crore people will suffer from hunger, according to preliminary estimates by the United Nations.

There are almost a thousand common pots in Lima that are recognised by officials in the municipality, but many, including the one run by Satalaya, are not registered and do not receive any kind of help. The government announced last week that it would send aid to many common pots, but since there are so many, the help may not reach every neighbourhood.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)

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