The diverse sprawl of nations that make up Latin America and the Caribbean is currently mired in the intense ramifications of inequity and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite internal efforts from across Latin American nations to fight off poverty, inequality and illness, it is evident that more foreign aid to Latin America is necessary. The aid should fall into the two main categories of helping maintain sovereignty for Latin Americans and growing their economies.
The Current Crisis
The most significant threat to lifting Latin American nations out of poverty is the rate of high inequality paired alongside low social program spending, which has resulted in the region accounting for 28% of total global COVID-19 fatalities by April 2022 despite only making up 8.4% of the world’s population. In addition, ineffective cash transfers and tax systems, which often neglect to collect from the wealthiest citizens, result in women, Indigenous communities and other marginalized groups bearing the brunt of the economic fallout.
The impact of the pandemic has only exacerbated the issues of low social program spending and lack of progressive taxation. Increased food insecurity, economic contraction of 7.4% in the region in 2020, as well as increased poverty and extreme poverty rates, all paint the current picture of economic and social inequality in Latin America and the need for more aid to alleviate the region’s levels of poverty.
Funds are currently in play, supplying aid to Latin America for COVID-19 relief and future infrastructure support. The World Bank initiated funding for public health systems throughout 2021, various industry support funds, vaccines and emergency health response improvement. Countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and Panama have received substantive aid with the primary focus on COVID-19 and health-related recovery.
Over the past 20 years, the need for aid in Latin America and the Caribbean has remained high, but due to developmental growth in the region, the “U.S. government has increasingly concentrated those resources in fewer countries and sectors.”
The rate of poverty in the region reduced from 45.3% in 2002 to 30.5% in 2019. However, around 2015, progress in many Latin American nations began to stagnate. Political instability deteriorated economic conditions in nations such as Nicaragua and Venezuela, and poverty levels only worsened across the region in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the Biden administration has proposed as of March 31, 2022, a foreign assistance budget of $2.1 billion for aid to Latin America and the Caribbean. However, these funds have yet to receive approval and the type of causes that the money would go to suggests that there is no exclusive focus on marginalized groups and women in these countries.
The Necessary Aid
An Amnesty International report in April 2022 shows the need for more aid to Latin America in the coming months, but the kind of aid that goes beyond basic health and economic assistance. Most notably, countries must rework the frame of providing funding and aid by opting for a “human rights-based approach to recovering from the pandemic and tackling inequality.”
With much of the impact of the social and economic fallout of the pandemic falling on the women of these countries, aid that is to come to the region must take into account how services and economic improvements can work for women. Aid that helps Latin American countries provide financial investment for improved infrastructure is aid that can help alleviate poverty. In addition, aid with a focus on equality and taking into account the social and economic discrepancies on a nation-by-nation basis can more adequately contribute to ending poverty in Latin America.
– Albert Vargas