Rural Ecuador faces coronavirus outbreak without doctors
Buena Vista, EcuadorSantiago Arcos, Vicente Gaibor del Pino
When a group of villagers in the Ecuadorean fishing community of El Real came down with coughs and fevers in early April, nobody was sure if they had the coronavirus - and no health workers were available to diagnose or treat them.
Their local doctor, like many of rural Ecuador's health workers, had been transferred to the country's biggest city, Guayaquil. There, the COVID-19 pandemic had overwhelmed hospitals and left authorities struggling to collect bodies.
In Cerrito de los Morreños in the Gulf of Guayaquil, the government set up a health center - but its doors have been closed for weeks. Residents dismiss it as an "ornament" amid the community's small, improvised homes.
"Here we are with the only doctor we have: God, who is taking care of us," said community leader Aurelio Valenzuela. "They have left us. They have abandoned us."
PHOTO EDITING MARIKA KOCHIASHVILI; WRITING Alexandra Valencia, BRIAN ELLSWORTH; EDITING DAN FLYNN, ROSALBA O'BRIEN