Throughout Latin America, the coronavirus is hitting hard. With over 125,000 confirmed cases, and over 8,500 deaths, Brazil is suffering and it is the most vulnerable people who are suffering the most. The Brazilian state of Amazonas has 92,000 confirmed cases with over 6,500 deaths–so far–and the high infection rate is coupled with an under-funded health system. The pandemic has led to a crisis where the dead are being buried in mass graves.
In Ecuador, There are over 31,000 confirmed cases, which have lead to over 1,600 deaths–again–so far. In the city of Guayaquil, there has been a surge of deaths that far exceed the officially recorded numbers. In Guayaquil, the hospitals were quickly overwhelmed and local authorities were unable to assist citizens in caring for the dead.
The indigenous population of Ecuador has revealed they are terrified of the effects that Covid-19 will have on their communities. The Siekopai Nation is located in the border region between Ecuador and Peru has only 744 members, but 15 confirmed cases and 2 deaths. Fearing that the entire community could succumb to the coronavirus, some Siekopai people have sought safety by fleeing into the Amazon jungle.
Even in areas where there is stronger healthcare infrastructure, Latin Americans are facing shortages of PPE such as medical gloves and masks. Those who have always struggled to procure medical supplies now find themselves unable to obtain basic supplies. In Mexico, health care workers have protested the lack of PPE, which they claim is contributing to further spread of the virus. Mexico has reported over 26,000 confirmed cases and over 2,500 deaths.
Social inequality and economic stratification in Latin America has likely contributed to under-reporting of Covid-19 cases. While affluent Latin Americans have the luxury of being able to participate in social distancing measures, the situation is more complicated for hard-working people that subsist on daily wages. In Argentina, there are just over 5,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 264 deaths, but statistics like this are gleaned from the portion of the population that has access to testing and expensive medical care. In a crowded Buenos Aires slum known as Villa 31, there are migrant workers from all over Latin America who live in conditions of poverty. These vulnerable citizens are aware that their close living conditions offer them little protection from the rapidly spreading virus.
One resident of Villa 31 states:
“I cry all night. I have panic attacks because I’m horrified to think that we could get sick,” the 43-year-old woman said from the door of a home surrounded by rusting sheets of roofing, cardboard boxes and other debris. “My little girl is a patient at risk. If she gets infect, she could die. …They never came to spray bleach, nothing. Nobody came here. Nobody offered me anything” (AP).