Argentia's slums, Buenos Aires slums
Argentina is the fifth-highest country with the most COVID-19 cases in South America, with 111,000 recorded cases by mid-July. Moreover, Argentina’s COVID-19 related death toll has nearly doubled since June, surpassing 5,000 cases. Confirmed illnesses continue to be on the rise, with more than half concentrated in the urban hotspot of Buenos Aires City. Approximately 88% of all cases in Argentina are reported from within Buenos Aires, its impoverished slums or its surrounding regions.

COVID-19 in Argentina

While the federal government acted early to contain the virus, including imposing a strict nightly curfew since March, Argentina’s most impoverished remain extremely susceptible to COVID-19 and its dire economic consequences. For example, within Buenos Aires’ slums, families often have to sell their homes to afford meals for their families.

Nearly half of all Buenos Aires cases were estimated to be in its slums in late May. In some instances, outbreaks became so alarming that the government would enforce security and fences around these neighborhoods to ensure residents do not spread the virus—at the expense of residents’ increased impoverishment.

Regional non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within Argentina recognized these hardships faced by low-income Argentinians and are currently working to mitigate the health and economic consequences. Here are five NGOs battling COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums.

5 NGOs Fighting COVID-19 in Argentina’s Slums

  1. Chequeado, Spanish for “Checked,” is an online journalism platform that fact-checks public information on Argentinian politics and society. The organization’s website has recently launched a new COVID-19 section to keep citizens informed about the fact-based science behind the virus. The section also covers COVID-19 cases and newly implanted preventative measures. Headlines range from the effectiveness of spraying items with alcohol to the evidence surrounding the transmission of COVID-19 by air. Given the growing number of slum residents having access to the internet due to Argentina’s globalization efforts, this news outlet is accessible to slum residents who would not have access to the information otherwise.
  2. International Organization for Migration, or IOM, works with state and non-state actors to assist migrants through various means, ranging from counter-trafficking to resettlement support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM is working with the Argentine Red Cross to provide food and cleaning supplies to vulnerable migrants. The organization is also ensuring all migrants understand COVID-19 precautions, translating public information to French for migrants from Haiti and Senegal, as well as English for migrants from Jamaica.
  3. Pequeños Pasos, translating to “small steps,” aims to bring sustainable development to the lives of Argentina’s impoverished. While the NGO focuses on missions ranging from education to employment, health and nutrition have been at the forefront of its efforts. Given the looming issue of extreme food insecurity due to COVID-19, Pequeños Pasos has launched an emergency food project to feed more than 12,500 people at risk of hunger in Buenos Aires slums. For a year, the NGO will provide monthly emergency food bags to vulnerable families.
  4. Asociación Civil Ingeniería sin Fronteras Argentina is a civil engineering organization that has taken on the project to quadruple the capacity of ventilators in Argentine hospitals. This solution aims to alleviate the possibility of ICU units reaching over-capacity and providing a sufficient number of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. The project aims to raise $7,015 to expand Argentina’s existing ventilator capacity, potentially saving thousands of Argentine lives. As a disproportionate number of slum-dwellers are contracting the virus, this aid will help them overcome the effects of COVID-19.
  5. Las Tunas is an education-based NGO that offers children and adolescents various educational resources, including scholarships and arts empowerment classes. In light of the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, the organization has expanded its efforts to help families remain economically stable. New website resources include a “Monitoring, Accompaniment and Early Detections” program that helps set up productive quarantine routines for families. The NGO also has a unique “Economic Development” program, which provides families with business strategies and training materials to increase household incomes. Original educational programs for youth are now also delivered online.

Looking Ahead

While COVID-19 cases in Argentina have overwhelmingly affected the country’s impoverished populations, diverse civil society organizations are working to combat the effects of COVID-19 in Argentina’s slums. Whether through economic empowerment or preventing misinformation on COVID-19, these five NGOs aim to stabilize Argentina’s most marginalized’s living conditions during the pandemic.

—Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Buenos Aires, Argentina is a difficult place to be poor.

The government announced earlier in 2014 that poverty levels at the national level continue to decline. Between 2011 and 2012, the nation’s poverty levels dropped from 5.7 percent to 4.3 percent. However, the impoverished of Buenos Aires continue to experience hardships.

Despite a slight reduction in poverty in the first decade of the century, Buenos Aires’ residents considered to be either poor or extremely poor continue to heavily populate the city.

Rising food prices in recent years have contributed to the problem. Crime is also a common problem in and around Buenos Aires. According to a 2011 report, crime is considered to be “one of the biggest burdens facing residents.” Robberies, especially muggings at bus stops, as well as street violence and other shootings are not unordinary in part due to a lack of police presence in areas of the city and the metropolitan region’s poorer areas.

Not helping the level of poverty in Buenos Aires is the city’s inadequate housing. Much of the city’s substandard housing was built with second-hand materials. Some of the buildings were never even finished.

While the city’s water and sanitation levels are adequate, Buenos Aires’ general infrastructure is subpar. The metropolitan areas lack the necessary architectural support to withstand hazards and extreme weather events.

In addition to such shortcomings, notable discrepancies exist among the city’s wealthy and poor. Even though certain areas of Buenos Aires remain inadequate, the more wealthy parts of the city possess newer, stable infrastructure.

Like other regions in South America, Buenos Aires features an abundance of low-income housing on unstable land. This includes land with contamination, low-lying and flood-prone areas and land on or near landfills.

One of the government’s most notable criticisms is its indecision in implementing a national poverty line. Even though many developed and some developing nations maintain such a threshold, Argentina does not.

In recent years, the Argentinean government stated that six pesos, or roughly $1.30, are enough for a citizen to sustain an entire day’s worth of food. The statement drew outrage both domestically and internationally. Given the expenses of living in a city, the average Buenos Aires resident would face financial hardships subsisting on such an amount.

Recently, children inhabiting one of Buenos Aires’ most dangerous slums have utilized cricket and the competitive spirit of sport as a means to separate themselves from a life of poverty. The Caacupe cricket team has seen some of its players enter training sessions at private schools and even play internationally.

“You can really use it in life as well,” fourteen-year-old Alexis Gaona said in an Associated Press article from March. “From here you have a reference for the rest of your life.”

It is a silver lining in a city where being poor poses many challenges.

– Ethan Safran 

Sources: Buenos Aires Herald, Yahoo News, International Institute for Environment and Development, Worldbulletin
Photo: Flickr