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  • Nearly one in five of Latin America’s urban population lives in crowded slums.

    Nearly one in five of Latin America’s urban population lives in crowded slums. | Photo: AFP

Published 28 June 2020
Opinion

The plight of those living in Haiti’s slums is shared by millions across the Caribbean and Latin America, the most unequal region in the world, according to the UN.

The coronavirus outbreak is spreading in Haiti's slums, suggesting the number of cases is far higher than that registered and reported by the Caribbean island authorities, according to a report published Sunday by Reuters. 

REUTERS: 

COVID: Latin America Has A Deadly Road To October, Study Warns

In the island country of 11 million, many do not want to be tested because of the stigma linked to coronavirus and their distrust of authorities. Some say the government is lying about the virus to collect international aid funds and fear bad treatment if they enter the hospital, Reuters reported.

This reluctance to seek treatment leads many to believe that the toll from COVID-19 is far higher than the 100 deaths officially registered to date. A funeral home company director in Port-au-Prince, who asked for anonymity, said deaths had doubled since mid-May, though only some of the excess had certificates confirming the cause as coronavirus.

The plight of those living in Haiti’s slums is shared by millions across the Caribbean and Latin America, the most unequal region in the world, according to the United Nations.

From Argentina to Mexico, nearly one in five of Latin America’s urban population lives in crowded slums.

In these poor, densely-packed neighborhoods, with little or no access to running water, sanitation, and health facilities, residents struggle to follow even the basic hygiene guidelines that experts recommend to prevent contagion.

And, given a large informal labor sector and insufficient or inexistent government welfare, many cannot afford to quarantine.

The number of cases in the region has more than tripled from 690,000 one month ago to around 2.5 million.

An infectious disease expert with Emory University, Carlos del Rio, said that - given very low levels of testing across the region - the most worrying aspect was not the number of confirmed cases but the levels of mortality.

“Latin America has just 8 percent of the world’s population but it currently accounts for 45 percent of daily deaths,” he told Reuters. 

Haiti and the broader region has, however, one strong suit: a younger population compared to some other parts of the world, as older people appear to be more vulnerable to the serious effects of COVID-19.

Less than nine percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean - and just 4.5 percent in Haiti - is aged 65 and above. That compares with 20 percent in the European Union and 16 percent in North America.

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