The harsh New York Times editorial that predicts what the coronavirus pandemic will be like in Latin America and Africa

A woman receives food during a government distribution exercise to quarantined civilians, as part of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Kampala, Uganda (Reuters / Abubaker Lubowa)

The United States and the main European countries, such as Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom, are the most affected by the coronavirus at this time. However, as international health authorities redouble their efforts to find a vaccine and work on measures to contain the spread of the virus, There is growing concern about the impact that the outbreak could have in a few weeks – or months – in the most vulnerable countries of Africa and South America.

“Africa must prepare for the worst”. That was the harsh warning that the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, launched weeks ago to the continent before the continued increase in the number of cases and countries affected by the coronavirus. The doctor indicated that prevention and rapid and forceful action can be key, and explained that if the virus begins a community circulation, there is no chance that the outbreak can be contained.

The New York Times published a tough editorial on Monday, entitled “The global coronavirus crisis is about to get much worse”, in which it refers to the worst conditions that countries in Africa, South America and South Asia have.

“In some parts of the United States and other developed countries hit hard by COVID-19, the question is when might it be possible to start going back to work. For much of the rest of the world, the nightmare has yet to begin. And part of the horror is that many of the poorest countries will not have the means to do about it, ”the article says.

“With the exception of Iran, the countries most affected so far are among those with the world‘s most advanced economies, scientific establishments and medical services, and even Iran has a relatively functional medical system. What is likely looming is the spread of the coronavirus through conflict-ridden countries, through crowded refugee camps and detention centers in places like Syria or Bangladesh, through crowded cities like Mumbai, Río de Janeiro Monrovia, where social distancing is impossible and the Government is not trusted, and through countries without the fiscal capacity or health services to mount a viable response ”, he adds.

Syrian Civil Defense members disinfect the Bab al Nour camp for internally displaced persons to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Azaz, Syria (Reuters / Khalil Ashawi)

Syrian Civil Defense members disinfect the Bab al Nour camp for internally displaced persons to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Azaz, Syria (Reuters / Khalil Ashawi)

A strong spread in those regions will also have a global impact, as “supplies of raw materials will be disrupted, fragile economies will collapse, and the virus will double to re-infect the northern regions.”

Aware of this panorama, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which foresees the worst crisis since the Great Depression due to the coronavirus, announced this Monday that approved debt relief for 25 countries to help them free up funds to fight the pandemic. While in the United States and Europe, governments and companies – for the most part – have been able to pay many unemployed workers at least part of their wages, and others are entitled to unemployment benefits, billions of people in Africa, America Latin and South Asia do not have a safety net or savings. The UN estimated that the loss of income in developing countries could exceed $ 220 billion. “The dramatic economic slowdown that is already underway will disrupt trade flows and create unemployment that will cause damage at levels difficult to predict and difficult to contemplate,” the editorial notes.

In parallel with the economic issue, concern grows in conflict zones. For this reason, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, and Pope Francis called for the cessation of all armed conflicts to focus on what the Portuguese diplomat considered “the real fight of our lives.” Last week the Saudi-led coalition announced a ceasefire in its war against Houthi rebels in Yemen, while armed groups expressed their desire to stop fighting in Colombia, Cameroon and the Philippines. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban began efforts to stop the spread of the virus. Russia, for its part, could reconsider the excessive burden of supporting Syrian troops or secessionists in eastern Ukraine if COVID-19 begins to have a major impact on the country’s economy.

“So far, the most vulnerable regions have registered few cases, one of them is Yemen, which extends throughout Africa and the Middle East. But that may be, in part, due to a lack of confidence in the reports or deliberate denial. The numbers are increasing and, as the world has learned, they are likely to rise dramatically and rapidly. “, alerts the New York newspaper.

Along these lines, he also remarked that “Some dictatorships, such as the Egyptian, have used the outbreak to reinforce their control” on the population and the state system. Something that has been denounced in Latin America in countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Venezuela faces the coronavirus amid an alarming humanitarian crisis (Reuters / Manaure Quintero)

Venezuela faces the coronavirus amid an alarming humanitarian crisis (Reuters / Manaure Quintero)

The New York Times cites in its editorial a survey by the International Crisis Group, which argues that “if the disease spreads in densely populated urban centers in fragile states, it can be virtually impossible to control.”

“To get an idea of ​​the magnitude of the plight of some developing nations, let’s consider one of the most critical pieces of medical equipment used in treatment: respirators. The United States has about 160,000 respirators, according to one estimate. Sierra Leone has 13. Southern Sudan has four. The Central African Republic has three. In Venezuela, where 90 percent of hospitals already face shortages, there are only 84 beds in intensive care units for a population of 32 million, according to a report by the International Rescue Committee “, graph the article.

“The lesson of the crisis is that the weakest links in the global health chain are a threat to health everywhere … We cannot afford these weak links, and we must strengthen efforts in countries and communities devastated by war to improve their life chances, “he said David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee.

Perhaps the only factor in favor of African countries that the American newspaper mentions is age. Since the beginning of the pandemic, health authorities indicated that people over 65 years of age are in the highest risk group from the coronavirus, along with those with pre-existing difficulties. However, according to The New York Times, “Throughout the Southern Hemisphere, the effects of the pandemic can be cushioned by young populations.” “In African countries like Niger, Angola, Chad, Mali, Uganda and Somalia, almost half the population is 15 years old or younger. In the United States, that proportion is 19 percent. “

The editorial considers it essential “that the brain of the developed world – think tanks, the media, universities and non-governmental organizations – focus on a strategy for the next and possibly more brutal front in the fight against the scourge of coronavirus ”. “Many organizations have already begun to do so, recognizing that this may be the defining struggle of our era, and that if the world ever demanded a global response, this is it”, concludes.

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