A Health Crisis Transforms into a Humanitarian Crisis; South America’s Fragile State

By Sasha Rafiy

With bodies abandoned on sidewalks and new burial grounds cut into thick forest, South America was one of the world’s hardest hit regions by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A year later, among many other social and economic problems, South America remains a COVID-19 hotspot, with a recent surge of cases in many countries that is even more deadly than before. 

Born out of political instability, corruption, social unrest, fragile health systems, and extensive inequality, South America’s inadequate and unsatisfactory COVID-19 recovery was inevitable. 

According to recent data collected by the New York Times, despite holding just 8 percent of the global population, South America accounted for 35 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the world. Recently, an aggressive coronavirus variant was discovered in Brazil, having spread throughout South America, prompting deaths and hospitalizations to skyrocket–even in countries that have widely administered the vaccine. 

Colombia, a country of 50 million, is seeing occupancy in intensive-care units hit 90% in the capital, Bogotá, with hospitals in other cities at their breaking point. The mayor of Bogotá is warning the residents to prepare for “the worst two weeks of our lives.”

The variant from Brazil is not only a problem for South America, but also a global problem in fighting the pandemic. The P.1 variant has spread to countries including Canada. In the province of British Columbia, officials have recorded 2,062 cases of P.1 as of April 26, up from 974 as of April 9. Other nations should be taking South America’s crisis as a lesson as it could be a driving force in the pandemic.  

What began as a health crisis in South America is now a humanitarian crisis; experts worry about what effects the pandemic will have on the nation’s future. As one of the globe’s “longest-haul Covid patients,” public health, the economy, social and political scars are a prime concern, which may run deeper than anywhere else in the world. Although this issue may not seem like a prime concern to rich countries who are returning to some type of “normalcy,” global involvement is necessary to handle and prevent the spread of these new variants.