Emmaus International

Luis Tenderini, an Emmaus International Board member for the Americas region, tells us how the economic and social situation has deteriorated in most South American countries since the beginning of the health crisis and how inequalities have intensified between the classes. He focuses particularly on the problems of access to vaccination for the population.

Fundacion Cuna Nazareth

In a region where enormous social contrasts already exist, the health crisis caused by Covid-19 has increased and exacerbated these disparities. One year on, the situation in most Latin American countries is still very serious, with no great improvement on the horizon. Over the last year, people living on the outskirts of large cities, communities in the Peruvian Andes and in the Amazon forests of Brazil and Colombia have been profoundly impacted in terms of their living conditions. Many have lost the minimum that enabled them to survive, albeit in conditions of poverty.

At the same time, data and information confirms that owners of financial capital have increased their wealth by profiting from the crisis. In countries such as Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Brazil, unemployment has reached levels never seen before. In Brazil alone, 15 million workers are unemployed and 40 million are under-employed, striving to make a living through small, informal businesses. Living with the obligatory lockdown, to protect people from the virus, has exacerbated the fragility of the vulnerable populations who have lost their purchasing power. Similarly, a sharp rise in the price of staple foods has increased poverty and hunger throughout the countries of Latin America. Moreover, in almost every country, corruption is making the situation worse, privileging the wealthy classes, who can afford to purchase vaccines, and leaving behind those who need it most given their lack of access to basic healthcare. The pandemic situation in Brazil is reaching tragic proportions. Over 300,000 deaths, 3,500 every day, hospitals on the brink of collapse due to a lack of beds and medical supplies, people dying due to a lack of oxygen. And the saddest part is knowing that the local government is mainly responsible for this situation, as it did not adopt the necessary measures to curb the spread of the virus at the right time. The vaccination process is continuing in many countries, but at a very slow pace which is not preventing the spread of the virus. All this is leading to the exacerbation of social inequalities in all Latin American countries, pushing the poorest populations into a situation of extreme poverty and misery.

Similarly, this situation is prompting many community-run, solidarity initiatives, with the distribution of food and hygiene kits.

Luis Tenderini,
Emmaus International Board member for the Americas region