MIAMI – In the last three months, the region of the Americas has been the most affected worldwide by the coronavirus pandemic, causing an unprecedented crisis that has exposed health advances achieved over the years and has sunk the economy to its level record lower, the Pan American Health Organization and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said Thursday.
In the entire region, including the United States and the Caribbean, there have been almost nine million cases of coronavirus and nearly 350,000 deaths, according to information reported by the countries to PAHO. Close to half of the cases – more than 4.5 million – correspond to Latin America and the other half to the United States.
“It is not surprising that a pandemic of this magnitude has unleashed a triple crisis in our region,” said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne at a joint virtual press conference with Eclac Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena.
“It wreaks havoc on our health systems, fractures our social protection and destabilizes our economy,” said the official, stressing that governments need to implement interdisciplinary policies.
Etienne’s statements took place on the same day that both organizations released a report urging the governments of the region to take urgent measures to avoid a humanitarian and food crisis in the region.
The report “Health and economy: a necessary convergence to face Covid-19 and return to the path towards sustainable development in Latin America”, highlights that there can be no economic recovery if the pandemic is not controlled, and calls on countries to increase fiscal spending to control the outbreak and promote economic recovery and reconstruction.
Both organizations consider that health is a priority issue, and their care is a human right to which the entire population should have access.
Bárcena insisted that governments should change the economic model and think of a more inclusive one that meets the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable populations, which have also been those most affected by the pandemic.
“Advancing equality is essential for the effective control of the pandemic and for economic and sustainable recovery” in the region, said ECLAC’s executive secretary. “That is why changing the development strategy is essential,” she said after admitting that it is a challenge for countries to get extra money to increase spending for the health and social sector.
In Latin America, public spending on health averages 3.7% of GDP, far from the PAHO recommended goal of 6%. In the region, more than a third of the financing of health expenses (34%) is financed by households, and not by governments.
The pandemic has caused the most pronounced economic recession in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean, with a contraction of regional growth expected at 9.1% for 2020. For this reason, the level of GDP per capita at the end of 2020 is expected to be similar to that of 2010, which represents a decline of a decade, according to ECLAC.
Poverty, meanwhile, will increase 7 percentage points to reach 37.3% of the population (about 231 million people, 45 of them new poor).
In the health sector, on the other hand, the pandemic has interrupted basic health services, including programs for the care of chronic diseases such as HIV and malaria, making the Americas face the risk of losing in a matter of months all the advances that They had been achieved in health for years, according to Etienne.
With 2.5 million infected and 88,000 deaths, Brazil is the most affected country in Latin America, followed by Mexico, which reports some 403,000 cases and 44,900 deaths.
Six months ago, when the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 as a public health emergency, the Americas had only eight cases, and none of them in Latin America or the Caribbean.
Globally, more than 17 million people have become ill and more than 668,000 have died of coronavirus, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which bases its data on reports from governments and government authorities the health of each country.
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