COVID-19: Heartbreak and hope for LGBTQI+ couple in Ecuador

Alexandra (left) and Andy (right), an LGBTQI+ couple living in Guayaquil, Ecuador

Andy Abad and Alexandra Benavides, both 36 years old, have been together for five years.

They live in Guayaquil, Ecuador, one of the cities in Latin America worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Due to lack of work from the COVID-19 crisis, the couple had to leave their apartment where they lived with Alexandra’s two children and move to a smaller place in the centre of Guayaquil with Andy’s aunt. Now Alexandra’s children are staying with their grandmother.

Alexandra says:

My biggest concern is for my children to get infected. I don’t have them here with me, they are in Naranjal with my mom because of the pandemic. Before, we had an active life, we’d go out to work, my children studied, and we would go buy the daily bread without the fear of getting infected.

Andy says:

I am restricting myself from going outside, because of my diabetes and low immunity I cannot go to work or to buy the daily bread.

Alexandra and Andy in courtyard, Ecuador
Alexandra and Andy in the courtyard of Andy’s aunt’s house where they live, in Guayaquil, Ecuador

Andy suffers from diabetes, which increases his fear of getting coronavirus. As a trans man, Andy is particularly vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, LGBTQI+ people regularly experience stigma and discrimination while seeking health services, leading to disparities in access, quality and availability of healthcare (UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Andy says:

The biggest challenge is to stay in good health and maintain my diabetes control. My biggest concern is not being able to go to work, maybe getting sick for long or getting infected.

In October 2019, the restaurant they had opened together was looted and they never recovered what was stolen. This left them with high debts and no plan for their future. LGBTQI+ people face challenges accessing work and livelihood opportunities, making them more likely to be unemployed and to live in poverty than the general population (UNHCR).

By early June 2020, there were more than 40,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ecuador and over 3,400 deaths. CARE has already begun scaling up a response in Ecuador to serve vulnerable communities, including domestic workers, Venezuelan refugees, sex workers and the LGBTQI+ community.

So far, during the coronavirus crisis CARE has supported 13,686 people in Alexandra and Andy’s situation, and has reached 820,000 through messages and social networks in Ecuador. CARE is responding with cash distributions; hygiene kits; food kits; social, legal, psychosocial support through telephone hotlines; GBV prevention and support and virtual psychosocial support to persons with COVID-19, as well as providing care to COVID-19 patients living in quarantine in Ecuador.

Andy cooking in a home kitchen, Ecuador
Andy preparing a mixture to make ‘humitas’ in the kitchen of his aunt’s home
Alexandra cooking humitas, Ecuador
Alexandra cooking the ‘humitas’

With financial support from CARE, Alexandra and Andy have been able to start a small business making humitas (steamed fresh corn tamales), which they prepare to order in the kitchen at Andy’s aunt’s home. Andy says:

I am grateful for CARE because this support is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.