LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN: COVID-19
While COVID-19 immunization efforts in some countries have managed to reach more than 60 per cent of their populations, other countries continue to face challenges that has kept vaccine coverage to below 5 per cent of the population. PAHO/WHO fears that the overall slow rate for the region may further increase existing health, social and economic disparities that could cause COVID-19 to remain an issue for years to come.
Additionally, with the 2021 hurricane season already underway, the persistence of the pandemic and slow vaccine roll-outs stand to further challenge disaster preparedness and response activities, especially in the Caribbean and Central America.
COVID-19 VACCINE SUPPLY
The United States announced they will share 14 million COVID-19 vaccine doses through the COVAX facility for at least 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of a global distribution of 80 million vaccines. This contribution, along with Spain’s contribution of 5 million doses for the entire region and Canada’s US$50 million pledge for expanding vaccine access, stands to help Latin America and the Caribbean increase their population of fully vaccinated people, a number that currently stands at about 13 per cent, or just more than 1 out of every 10 people in the region.
Since January 2020, there have been 262,038 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 8,356 deaths, reported among indigenous populations in 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Compared to data from 18 May 2021, there are 36,579 additional cases and 798 more deaths, partly due to countries adjusting data retroactively. These vulnerable populations continue to deal with limitations in accessing basic health service services, and their often remote locations are challenging logistics efforts for national COVID-19 vaccine roll-outs.
CARIBBEAN: HURRICANE ELSA
Hurricane Elsa, a Category 1 storm that became first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season, prompted varying degrees of storm damage in Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia, among other countries and territories. Elsa's impact on Barbados, who had not received a direct hit from a hurricane in 66 years, include damage to 1,300 homes. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who are still dealing with the effects of an April 2021 volcanic eruption, reports damage to at least 43 homes. St. Lucia reports crop and harvest losses of US$12.5 million. Parts of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba and Southern Haiti also reported impacts have prompted response from national authorities.
Heavy rains over Guyana and Suriname since mid-May has affected thousands of households, prompting Guyana to declare a national disaster. Guyana's Civil Defence Commission (CDC) has distributed more than 55,000 food or cleaning kits across all 10 regions, with teams from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) have supported assessments. In Suriname, the southern and coastal areas have taken the brunt of the impact, with high flooding displacing some 1,000 households and created priority needs in food security, WASH, shelter and health.
CENTRAL AMERICA: FOOD SECURITY
Recent reports from Guatemala cite that there are more than 174,000 people in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) following Eta and Iota’s impact on subsistence farming, as well as 3.5 million people in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis). FAO in Guatemala are concerned with food insecurity in parts of Izabal, Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz and Chiquimula due to high vulnerability to storms and COVID-19. Per WFP in Honduras, 3.3 million people may remain food-insecure through December 2021 or even January 2022, which would require some 80,000 tons of food to provide food assistance for 90 days. WFP is urging action in identifying affected families and mobilizing response resources.