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Vaccine Distribution in Latin America
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Latin America hard. As of July 2021, about 1.3 million people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have died from COVID-19 alone, showing the devastating toll that the virus has had on families throughout the region. With such a high death toll and the introduction of new, more dangerous variants of the original virus, the question of vaccine distribution in Latin America has been a topic of discussion among health experts.

Throughout Latin America, vaccination rates overall have remained lower than world averages. Some countries such as Uruguay have a higher vaccination rate. As of September 16, 2021, the country has administered 171.68 doses per 100 people. Chile’s vaccination rate is second to Uruguay, with 159.65 doses administered per 100 people. The two countries with the lowest vaccination rates are Nicaragua, with 10.97 doses per 100 people and Haiti, with 0.44 doses per 100 people.

Vaccine distribution in Latin America unequivocally varies per country. These discrepancies are problematic in combatting the disease throughout the region. Many of the regions with low vaccination rates have some of the highest mortality rates as well, which has caused more need for the vaccine.

Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a report in April 2021 detailing vaccination distribution in Latin America. It included its recommendations and the challenges that Latin America needs to overcome to increase vaccination rates and better the population’s overall prospects. UNESCO gave strategies for vaccination, focusing on impoverished areas that have higher mortality rates. Yet, UNESCO also projects that only approximately a third of people in Latin America and the Caribbean will receive vaccinations by the end of 2021.

Guillermo Anllo, a UNESCO program head for Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke to Reuters in early August. Anllo emphasized how crucial equity is to the distribution of vaccines in Latin America. The pace of vaccination has been slow in the region as a whole due to structural issues. For example, the highest income countries throughout the world have vaccination rates that are 30 times faster than the countries that have the lowest incomes.

Furthermore, economies have experienced damage during the pandemic, especially those in the Caribbean who rely on tourism. This damage to tourism has a ripple effect on the purchasing power of the countries’ governments to obtain more vaccinations, slowing the process in this way as well.

Efforts to Increase Vaccine Distribution

Worldwide organizations and agencies have sent aid to Latin America throughout the spring of 2021. Most recently, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has vowed to increase access to vaccines and to help minimize transmission of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean. This plan comes from PAHO’s Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines, which has operated for more than 40 years to distribute vaccines to places in need. PAHO’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Latin America will go to the areas and people at the greatest risk in order to adequately and equitably protect the people of these regions.

With more vaccines on the way and a heightened urgency to vaccinate due to spreading variants, more inhabitants of Latin America will hopefully see higher rates of vaccinations and an increase in safety from the virus in the near future.

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Communities Respond to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected indigenous populations around the world. This led to initiatives creating opportunities to translate critical information about the coronavirus into indigenous languages. As a result, they were able to aid in countering the spread of misinformation and save lives in an attempt to help indigenous communities respond to COVID-19.

International Year of Indigenous Languages

The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 71/178 in 2016. It declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The International Year is an important mechanism in the United Nations system for raising awareness about and mobilizing action toward global issues, such as helping indigenous communities respond to COVID-19. The goal of the International Year of Indigenous Languages was to promote and protect indigenous languages at risk of disappearing. This includes recognizing indigenous knowledge and communication as assets that make the world a richer place.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Communities

Pandemics affected indigenous communities disproportionately since the beginning of history. Spanish influenza and H1N1 influenza pandemics infected and killed indigenous peoples in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States at high rates. The rates were higher than their non-indigenous counterparts. The same is true for the COVID-19 pandemic. Indigenous peoples’ increased vulnerability to infectious diseases stems from the legacy of colonialism, including poverty, poor physical and mental health, lack of access to housing, higher rates of domestic abuse and lower life expectancies. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic limits the ability of indigenous peoples to practice traditional customs, from formal greetings that involve touching to large gatherings marking important rites of passage, that are often the source of their resilience.

The rampant spread of misinformation and disinformation, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has called an “infodemic,” poses yet another challenge for indigenous communities fighting COVID-19. The same technology and social media enable the dissemination of false information about the coronavirus. This undermines the global response to the pandemic. People are then less willing to observe public health measures, such as mask-wearing and physical distancing. This makes public health information very important. WHO plans to make such information available in local indigenous languages in a culturally sensitive manner.

UNESCO

Utilizing feedback from indigenous peoples’ organizations and partners from the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, UNESCO has implemented multi-language initiatives to fight the infodemic in indigenous communities. One example is a community radio project in Ecuador that UNESCO created in collaboration with indigenous associations, the Ecuadorian government, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and Community Radios Network (CORAPE). Radio is a particularly useful platform to share important information about the coronavirus with indigenous communities because many lack access to the internet. This community radio project secured 20 radio spots. It also produced and distributed a booklet of  COVID-19 information. The booklet also includes preventative measures in indigenous languages for the target populations of Afro-descendant and Montubio (mestizo coastal) communities.

Additionally, the website for the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages has a page dedicated to the importance of Indigenous languages during the COVID-19 pandemic that includes a collection of useful resources from United Nations agencies and other organizations about the coronavirus and its impacts in hundreds of different languages.

Cultural Survival

Noting the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on indigenous peoples and the strength they draw from their ancestors who lived through past pandemics, Cultural Survival acted quickly to provide resources. The nonprofit developed, distributed and translated critical information about COVID-19 prevention and response. Due to its multi-language initiative, it translated 417 public service announcements into 130 indigenous languages for preventative measures against COVID-19. It also helped distribute more than 1,200 radio stations around the world in addition to a prevention manual and emergency response toolkit, also available in many indigenous languages, to further support the activities of radio stations.

Cultural Survival is also using Google Maps technology to create the first global monitoring system for COVID-19 for indigenous communities. There are also programs through Cultural Survival to distribute financial resources to community-centered projects that help indigenous partners and local radio stations respond to the COVID-19 crisis in their local communities.

Indigenous Youth Bring COVID-19 Information to their Communities

Indigenous youth are mobilizing to protect their elders from COVID-19 through multi-language initiatives. In Brazil, many tribal elders have died from COVID-19. This is highly concerning for indigenous youth because the elders pass down important traditions and knowledge. Indigenous youth have noticed that the elders they lost to COVID-19 did not have enough information about the virus. They translated informative content only available in Portuguese into indigenous languages. They communicated the original meaning of technical words accurately.

For example, the Network of Young Communicators from the Upper Rio Negro uses WhatsApp to produce and broadcast podcast episodes in indigenous languages, in addition to circulating a written bulletin to residents in the region. Meanwhile, the group Mídia India created quarentenaindigena.info, which contains news and data about the spread of COVID-19 in Brazil’s indigenous communities.

Resilience

The COVID-19 pandemic has had many negative impacts on indigenous communities around the world. Multi-language initiatives created with the goal of sharing critical information about the coronavirus reflect the unshakeable resilience of Indigenous peoples.

Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis has collectively only had 17 reported cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths. However, the pandemic has severely affected the economy because tourism primarily supports it. As of 2019, about 4,000 people were registered as making less than 3,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars a month, making them eligible for government aid. When the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis implemented extensive COVID-19 safety measures, it negatively impacted the tourism sector causing many to fall below the poverty line indicated above. Poverty in Saint Kitts and Nevis remains a major issue, especially during the challenging time of COVID-19. However, there are some measures for poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

In April 2020, the Governor-General of the two islands used his emergency powers to create regulations such as closing all ports and airports, closing non-essential businesses and suspending the liquor license of many businesses. While these extreme measures have kept the island relatively safe from COVID-19, the country and its citizens are in need of economic stimulation.

Massive Economic Stimulation

The country’s government has made the decision to extend its Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) to support poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis. It instituted the program in 2018 as a monthly, $500 stipend for the country’s poorest citizens. It will give $80 million in aid to those who have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic. It will also allow an additional $40 million to stimulate the economy.

This massive aid program is the largest per capita response to the COVID-19 economic losses so far. Saint Kitts and Nevis is also giving $1,000 in Social Security benefits and increasing the amount of PAP stipends distributed. Lastly, it will suspend water and electricity fees as well as mortgage collections until January 2021 in an effort to support poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Funding COVID-19 Economic Plan

Interestingly, Saint Kitts and Nevis is relying on its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program to fund these COVID-19 relief efforts. This program allows a person to gain a Saint Kitts and Nevis passport by donating or investing in the country’s real estate.

The CBI program makes up 20% to 30% of Saint Kitts’ and Nevis’ income annually. In an effort to entice new donors and investors, the government is offering a COVID-19 discount. Therefore, people wishing to donate have to pay $150,000 and those who wish to make a real estate investment have to pay $200,000.

Additionally, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has become an important contributor to Saint Kitts’ and Nevis’ COVID-19 response efforts. It released an appeal to donors in March 2020 and began accepting financial aid. It has raised $52.7 million of its $94.8 million goals as of June 11, 2020. PAHO has provided equipment, access to health experts and individual safety gear to the two islands.

Re-Opening Borders

The latest Emergency Powers regulations expired on August 9, 2020, but Saint Kitts and Nevis government has yet to announce when its borders will reopen. However, the government worked to ensure that workers in the tourism sector would have the preparation to serve any incoming tourists safely with a training program that ran until August 27, 2020.

The government is also preparing to launch and adopt a contact tracing app. It will be mandatory for all visitors to utilize the app and respect all of the emergency regulations that are in effect. Additionally, it will provide health updates and uses geofencing technology to alert users when they enter certain boundaries.

While reopening Saint Kitts and Nevis’ borders is a daunting task, the Premier of Nevis believes that the country needs to find ways to restart its local economy because one can categorize COVID-19 as both a health and economic crisis. The $120 million economic stimulus package the islands are adopting should protect affected citizens from extreme poverty and allow them to survive until the tourism industry can reopen.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in the Dominican Republic
When one thinks about the Dominican Republic, one may typically picture the beaches of Punta Cana or other tropical vacation destinations. Although the Dominican Republic has a strong and fast economic growth rate within the Latin American and Caribbean regions, the largest income group is a vulnerable set of individuals who have a high probability of falling back into poverty. In 2008, the national poverty rate was roughly 34% in the Dominican Republic. The national poverty rate fell to 21% in 2019. However, much more progress must occur in order for the people of the Dominican Republic to escape poverty. Here are five main influences on poverty in the Dominican Republic.

5 Influences on Poverty in the Dominican Republic

  1. Lack of Quality Education: Young children and women do not have equal access to education in the Dominican Republic. About 36% of students do not finish their basic education. Many children who drop out are from the poorest areas of the country. They have to stop their education in order to help their families by working to earn money. In 2018, a total of 65,825 students were not in school. This pivotal setback will limit equal opportunities and their development. In order for the Dominican Republic to attain a positive economic turnaround, there must be an improvement in quality education. Since 2013, the government has increased its GDP spending on education and joined the World Bank’s Human Capital Project in order to get input about the improvement of human capital.
  2. Socioeconomic Inequality: One cause of poverty in the Dominican Republic is unemployment. The employment rate of women is 33% in comparison to 61% of males in the workforce. Women are at a disadvantage due to the absence of education. Oftentimes women leave education in order to take care of the family and household. Even if women are in the work field, they are underpaid in comparison to men. The average pay for women was 79% of what men make.
  3. Lack of Sanitation: About one-fifth of citizens live in shacks without access to running water, electricity and proper sanitation. Although the country made an effort to increase access to sanitation services, this does not correlate with improved living conditions and quality. Many do not have equal access to quality infrastructure, which shows an increase in poverty. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the consumption of contaminated water led to severe diarrhea, which caused 50% of deaths in children under the age of 1. The World Bank Group helped restore water treatment facilities in Santo Domingo and Santiago. This led to more than 1 million gallons of drinking water for around 750,000 people. It also launched a project for wastewater treatment plants to help facilitate sanitation. The improvement of irrigation systems and clean water led to the improvement of local farms.
  4. Natural Hazards: The Dominican Republic suffers from natural disasters, which include earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes and droughts. Natural disasters have negatively affected a quarter of the country’s population. Many buildings and homes are vulnerable to natural disasters due to a lack of enforcing proper building and zoning codes. Increased flooding due to climate change will lead to economic loss within the country. It is difficult for the government to produce aid for families and businesses burdened by natural disasters. In 2017, Hurricanes Maria and Irma brought high winds, flooding and landslides that devastated the country. These hurricanes caused major property damage due to the creation of strong storm surges along the coastline. Luckily, the death toll was not high from these hurricanes. However, the storms caused major damage to physical communities and left many without power, water and sanitation. The Dominican Red Cross responds to disasters where it has relief protocols in order to support the country. It distributed relief packages to more than 2,000 families that Hurricane Irma affected.
  5. Crime: Violence and criminal activity led to a downfall in the country’s wealth equality. Although the Dominican Republic’s gross domestic product continues to rise, different communities do not have equal funding. Higher crime rates lead to disproportionality of wealth. These poverty-stricken communities lack protection. This can lead to individuals living in extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic.

Looking Ahead

The Dominican Republic is capable of reducing poverty in the next 10 years, but it must make major improvements. In order to end poverty in the Dominican Republic, representatives must improve the quality of education, health care services and employment through the implementation of policies that help the most vulnerable individuals. The country needs to make positive economic changes by increasing human capital and the business environment, improving the management of natural disasters and climate change and maintaining natural resources. These five influences on poverty in the Dominican Republic show that there needs to be policy changes in order to reshape the inequalities within the country.

Ann Ciancia
Photo: Flickr

Cost of Measles
A virus spreads measles; the disease is highly contagious and can cause further serious health problems, including death. Globally, 111,000 deaths occurred from measles in 2017 and most of these deaths were of children under the age of 5. While there is a cost-effective and safe vaccination available, there are gaps in vaccination coverage, especially in developing countries. This allows outbreaks of measles to continue to ravage communities and causes the death toll to rise.

Measles in the Developing World

The global cost of measles is high, but it is highest in the developing world. It is estimated that in the United Kingdom, the medical cost of a single measles case is $307, while the vaccine costs are $1.93. Estimates also determine that currently in the developed world, the cost of a measles outbreak can range between $4,091 and $10,228 per day, depending on the size of the outbreak. Each of these outbreaks can last an average of 17.5 days as well. Economies spending little on health care funding might find the cost of quarantining and ending a measles outbreak daunting and that it would cost more resources and funding than is available.

In 2014, the Federated States of Micronesia saw its first measles outbreak in 20 years. Starting with two confirmed cases of measles, the outbreak grew to over 50,000 people, causing 110 deaths. The cost of this measles outbreak matched the cost of measles outbreaks in the industrialized world; the total costs to treat and contain these 50,000 cases were nearly $4 million costing roughly $10,000 per case. Medical costs accounted for approximately a quarter of the total cost of measles in this example. The other costs came from the loss of productivity for those measles infected as well as their caregivers, and the majority of the cost of this measles epidemic was to contain the outbreak. In total, the country spent around $3.5 million on containment. Containment costs are high for countries struggling to provide health care for their citizens, and the loss of productivity for many families in the developing world can mean the difference between feeding their family and starvation.

Measles’ Recent Appearances

The first quarter of 2019 saw a huge upswing in reported measles cases worldwide versus the same time period a year prior. From January through March of 2019, there were over 112,000 cases, and the vast majority of these cases were from developing countries. For comparison, the same three-month time period in 2018 had only 28,000 reported cases of measles. If the cost of measles containment and medical treatment averaged $10,000 per case, as evidenced by the Federated States of Micronesia, then subject countries have spent at least $1.1 billion in a three-month time span to care for patients worldwide. The effects of the loss of productivity on impoverished families, including starvation, added a deficit of several million more dollars to the cost of measles in 2019.

Combatting Measles

To combat the rise of measles, five leading global health NGOs have formed a partnership to control measles deaths, giving support to immunization drives, and working to lower child mortality rates overall. The partnership includes the American Red Cross, United Nations Foundation (U.N. Foundation), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

When asked about the origins of the partnership, Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, said, “It is increasingly clear that every citizen, every sector and every nation has an interest in working together to promote progress in health, human rights, the economy and the environment. Those who think progress in these areas is elusive need look no further than this very tangible, impressive collaboration.” If ever there was a chance to lower child mortality rates, these five NGOs working in connection with one another would be the closest the world has seen.

Vaccination is the Key

Vaccination rates have drastically improved over the last few decades. Measles outbreaks have dropped 80 percent since the year 2000 thanks to increased vaccinations. One can partly attribute the recent increase in measles cases to a decrease in vaccinations worldwide. The cost of measles outbreaks is far too high to continue battling a disease that people can avoid with a vaccine costing less than $2. The cost of lost productivity can continue the cycle of poverty for developing nations for years to come. Measles vaccinations must increase and become available in all reaches of the world to counter the issues that measles outbreaks pose.

Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr