Lionel Messi, captain of the Argentina national football team and one of the highest-paid athletes in the world, fears contracting the coronavirus. His comment comes on the heels of Argentina’s withdrawal from Copa America because of a spike in COVID-19 cases. But, the pandemic has caused more than just football safety concerns. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Argentina has been harsh but the country is working to address these effects.
As Europe and the United States see a decline in COVID-19 infections, the virus’s new hot spot has become Latin America and the Caribbean. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), 89% of total COVID-19 deaths in those regions have occurred in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. As of July 2021, Johns Hopkins University reported that Argentina had seen more than 4.4 million COVID-19 cases and 94,000 deaths. Although lockdown measures remain in place, Argentina’s low vaccination rate presents an obstacle in battling COVID-19. As of July 2021, only around 9% of Argentina’s population is fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 and Poverty Rates
In the late 1990s, Argentina experienced an economic crash that pushed many people into poverty. From 1999 to 2002, the percentage of the population living on less than $5.50 per day rate rose from 28.5% to 49.9%. Over the next few decades, however, this trend saw improvements. Through social programs such as the Universal Child Allowance, a monthly stipend for unemployed parents of children younger than 18, the poverty rate decreased to 12.2% by 2018. However, the pandemic has driven poverty up again. By June 2020, the poverty rate rose to 40.9%, the highest since 2004, shortly after Argentina’s economic crisis.
Perhaps because Argentina was already in a recession when the pandemic began, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Argentina has been especially severe. The country’s unemployment rate rose from 9.8% in 2019 to 11.7% in 2020. The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicted that young women would face the highest unemployment rate. Therefore, industries with a large proportion of women workers, such as the tourism, hotel and restaurant industries, will have the most challenging recovery from the pandemic. Because of an already unstable economy, even the nearly $24 billion the Argentinian government spent on COVID-19 welfare programs was unable to pull citizens completely out of poverty.
Alleviating the Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Argentina
On June 11, 2021, Argentina approved the distribution of a single-dose vaccine that Cansino Biologics Inc. created. Cansino’s vaccine joins Argentina’s arsenal of approved vaccines, including the Sputnik V vaccine, the Sinopharm vaccine and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. Inoculating a majority of Argentina’s population is not only the greatest weapon against COVID-19, but also reduces the burden of medical care and helps the recovery of a struggling economy.
Argentina is also making progress in improving its public healthcare system. In early 2021, the World Bank Board of Directors approved a $250 million U.S. loan that will aid 17 million Argentinians through a Supporting Effective Health Care Coverage project to optimize medical care access, improve the treatment of chronic diseases and offer maternal and child health support.
Argentina is a global leader in livestock production with approximately 700,000 square miles of pasture land and the United States engaged in nearly $24 billion worth of trade with the country in 2019. If wealthy countries like the United States invest in poverty reduction in Argentina, not only will Argentina’s economy improve but more business opportunities will open to the United States and the rest of the world.
– Madeline Murphy
Photo: Wikimedia Commons