South America Is Collapsing - What You Need To Know
Aerial picture showing mass graves dug for Covid-19 dead, gravediggers burying a victim at the Vila Formosa Cemetery, in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
As the United States starts to open back up many people have happily put Covid-19 into their past. Most of us have forgotten that Covid is STILL a crisis at large in other parts of the world. South America is suffering from more than just the virus, and most people have no idea what's going on.
The numbers for Covid in South America are alarming and continue to grow with no flattening of the curve in sight. Unlike the US, which still struggles to be prepared and stay ahead of the virus, South America’s massive lack of medical resources and governmental structure has crippled their ability to handle the global pandemic. Third World countries are categorized as such because they have “under developed” systems for basic human needs. For example, millions of people do not have access to clean water, proper waste management, vehicles or paved roads, proper housing and they have little or no medical care whatsoever. Now, let’s add a killer virus that the world has never seen before to the mix, and we thought things were bad here in the US. Just to put the situation into even better perspective, while people were fighting about wearing face-masks in the US, thousands of people were laying their dead relatives out in the streets for a truck to pick them up each morning in South America.
In just the last two weeks, Peru jumped from 12th place on the world “Confirmed Cases” chart to 8th, Brazil is in 2nd place. Peru and Brazil are the leading epicenters for Covid-19 in South America. So, why is Covid so much worse in South America?
I already touched on the Third World country issue. Lack of clean water and slum-type neighborhoods are perfect conditions for the virus to spread. More people are getting sick and South America lacks the medical system to handle that. Your local hospital (if your district even has one) is completely overloaded. Highways and transportation have been shut down from each city in an effort to contain spreading, so getting into a city hospital for better treatment isn’t an option either. Most impoverished areas have been using their local clinic or birthing centers to treat Covid patients. These facilities are completely unequipped to handle a medical emergency. Ventilators are nonexistent and personal protective equipment ran out within the first month.
In Pucusana, Peru, where our nonprofit is located, the medical staff is small. Four Doctors were assigned to handle the outbreak in a town of 15,000 people, 10,000 of them living in extreme poverty. Without sufficient PPE, three of the four Doctors became sick in April and one died in early May.
Later in May, Peru declared their medical system as “collapsed”. The sick started being turned away at hospital and clinic doors and sent home to isolate themselves. Doctors are being forced to prioritize patients on who is most likely to recover. Elderly Covid patients are no longer eligible to receive care in ICU units. Lack of ventilators and oxygen tanks is another issue. In late May, citizens of Peru were in an outrage when told prices would rise for refilling oxygen tanks. Decades of political corruption in Peru’s government, inefficient tax collecting and lack of funding to the countries health department are the reasons for the collapse of the health care system. The medical system has fallen apart and impoverished communities will suffer the most for it.
An abandoned corpse lies on the sidewalk in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on April 6th, 2020.
Another reason Covid has hit South America so hard is because of the thousands of people who are NOT obeying quarantine regulations and social distancing rules. Impoverished communities do not have home computers and most people have manual labor jobs, which is not compatible with the “work from home” mentality the US had. In Peru, less than 50% of people even own a fridge or freezer. Impoverished communities, like Pucusana, also do not have electricity, so food storage during a 3-month quarantine is extremely difficult to do. Vehicles are prohibited to drive unless deemed essential, so no take-out, not that that was a real option anyway because only a small percentage of Peruvians even have a bank account let alone a credit card, since cash payment is not allowed. All of this and much more goes into why hundreds of thousands of people are forced to leave their homes EVERY DAY to find work and food. Quarantine restrictions are broken because families are starving. During a time in which these countries are trying to limit the spread of Covid, large crowds still reside outside of mini-markets and corner-stores. Pucusana’s authorities forcefully closed their markets for 10 days because “40% of the workers were infected”, but this caused huge uproar in the community because people were starving and needed food. According to Peruvian national news, people would rather risk getting Covid than see their families starve to death. Many countries in South America have been in quarantine since March and will continue to remain so until further notice, which will only continue to cause millions to starve.
To top it all off, the economies of these countries are in long-term jeopardy. Unless quarantine is lifted soon and people can go back to work, South America will collapse across the board. If this happens, it will look a lot different than just some people losing their jobs and not making their mortgage payments; millions of people will die from starvation. However, with Covid numbers continuing to rise, officials are faced with an impossible situation. Open back up to help ease economic pain, but allow Covid to spread unchecked, or, continue quarantine and face dangerous long-term economic disaster and mass starvation. This is the reality for millions in South America right now, Covid or starvation, both being a current death sentence in impoverished areas.
Lack of testing also makes accurate counting and projections difficult to measure. The numbers coming in from Brazil and Peru are likely much, much higher. Dr. Carissa Etienne, the WHO’s regional director for the Americas, told reporters on May 26th that, “the situation in South America is bad and projected to get worse”.With winter coming and the normal flu season beginning, South America is expecting their daily deaths to grow exponentially.
What can you do to help? Simply put, donate to nonprofits that work in South America.
The Pucusana Project is working diligently to prevent city-wide starvation in Pucusana, Peru. We have been providing food bags to the poorest neighborhoods in Pucusana for the last few months. Our food bags contain items with long shelf-life items like rice, potatoes, eggs, and canned goods. One food bag feeds a family of five for two-three weeks and costs $50 USD to provide. We are also trying to equip the local clinic with more PPE.
Private charities and nonprofits must step up to help where the government has failed the people in South America or millions will die from Covid and starvation. Nonprofits, like ours, have the manpower and connections on the ground in these impoverished areas to have the greatest positive effect and aid relief. But we need your donation in order to help alleviate the current crisis.
Let “we’re all in this together” continue to ring true on a global scale.
An impoverished neighborhood in Pucusana Peru seems abandon as people quarantine inside.