WASHINGTON — A new joint report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned that regional economies will only be reactivated if the curve of contagion of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is flattened.
The report — released at a joint press conference led by Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s executive secretary, and Dr Carissa F Etienne, PAHO’s director — proposes a three-phase approach that includes the adoption of health, economic, social and productive policies that aim to control and mitigate the effects of the pandemic, reactivation with protection, and rebuilding in a sustainable and inclusive way.
According to the report titled, “Health and the Economy: A Convergence Needed to Address COVID-19 and Retake the Path of Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean,” some countries have led the region to become the current epicentre of the pandemic, topping global case numbers.
As of July 29, the report said there are more than 4.5 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 190,000 deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“A significant number of countries remain far from achieving a sustained and significant flattening of the curve of contagion. The pandemic has also unleashed an unprecedented economic and social crisis which, if urgent measures are not taken, could transform into a hunger and humanitarian crisis.”
The report adds that the pandemic has “profoundly affected the lives and livelihoods of people in the region”.
“The pandemic has caused the most abrupt recession in history”, which, according to ECLAC projections, will imply “a regional drop in growth of -9.1 per cent in 2020, along with a rise in unemployment to 13.5 per cent, an increase in the poverty rate of 7.0 percentage points, which will reach 37.3 per cent of the population, and a sharpening of inequality with an average rise in the Gini index of 4.9 percentage points”.
The report states that health systems in the region, “which were already underfunded and fragmented prior to the arrival of COVID-19, are having to face the pandemic with weaknesses in the performance of the health authorities’ steering role”.
It notes public health expenditure averages a mere 3.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), far from the six per cent target recommended by PAHO.