While the impact of COVID-19 is undeniable, there have been many victims whose names have not even been counted and must be considered for an appropriate assessment of the pandemic, said Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
About 617,000 people belonging to indigenous communities in the Americas have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 15,000 have died from complications, according to PAHO. However, “It is likely that many more are infected, but we may not know it because they have struggled to receive the COVID-19 care they deserve," said Etienne.
She emphasized how much the pandemic exacerbated inequality for people in the Americas, particularly when indigenous communities do not have access to financial safety and social networks that keep them and their communities safe when sick. “Many of our indigenous peoples live in remote and isolated areas where a clinic or doctor may be many kilometers or days away. Even those living in urban centers continue to face invisible barriers – such as language, stigmatization and poverty – that can put health care out of their reach,” she stressed.
The UN Development Program’s (UNDP) Regional Human Development Report 2021 ‘Trapped: High Inequality and Low Growth in Latin America and the Caribbean’ analyzes the concentration of power and regulatory frameworks in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the impact of COVID-19 on them. “The COVID-19 pandemic has now widened the gap. In the wake of closing and suffering businesses, incomes have dropped and unemployment has risen with millions of households struggling to get by,” reads the report. The report also addresses issues that persist in countries like Mexico: “The multiple crises of the COVID-19 pandemic have weighed most heavily on those already left behind, exacerbating inequalities throughout 2020 and 2021. This has taken different forms, ranging from unequal impacts on household income to an increasing incidence of domestic violence.”
This is particularly problematic in Mexico, where according to the UNDP, income concentration is extremely high, with the revenue of 50 companies representing around 40 percent of the Mexican GDP, disabling the possibility for social mobility and access to better financial and social opportunities. Addressing these problems is extremely important as they put the country in a development trap, limiting the progress and growth countries can aspire to achieve.