Hunger, Poverty Surge In Latin America As Impacts Of Pandemic Deepen

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Hunger, Poverty Surge In Latin America As Impacts Of Pandemic Deepen
The U.N. says 14 million people across Latin America could face food shortages due to the pandemic, and 30 million more could enter poverty.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

In the bustling Los Alamos settlement outside Lima, Peru, this sign screams out. "Necesitamos ayuda," it says. "We need help."

That's because this community, and much of Latin America, is suffering from dual impacts of the coronavirus pandemic: sickness and hunger.

The U.N. World Food Program warns that more people like these, lining up for emergency food distribution in Lima, will be plunged deeper into poverty. These are the scenes as the economy collapses and jobs — and incomes — vanish.

The U.N. says at least 14 million people across Latin America could face food shortages due to the pandemic, and 30 million more could become impoverished.

The World Health Organization says the worst crisis of the pandemic is currently centered in the Americas. Brazil ranks second in the world after the U.S., with more than 338,000 COVID-19 cases and 27,000 deaths. And Peru is now 12th, with more than 141,000 infections and 4,000 fatalities.

"South America has become a new epicenter for the disease. We've seen many South American countries with increasing numbers of cases, and clearly there's a concern across many of those countries,” said Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Program.

As jobs have vanished and food has grown scarce in Lima's Los Alamos settlement, residents are sharing staples in this outdoor kitchen. People like unemployed waitress Maria Estrella plead for help and volunteer to help others.

"We had nothing to feed our children and we had to organize ourselves in this way so we could put at least some food on our table for our children,” Estrella said.

Miguel Barreto, the World Food Program's Latin America regional director, offers this understatement for the crisis: "We're entering a very complicated stage." He says there is no precedent for what is happening.

With reporting from The Associated Press.