The Zika virus epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean is most affecting Brazil, with over one million cases estimated. Colombia reports over 18,000 confirmed and 2,000 suspected cases and anticipates over 650,000. El Salvador reports over 6,000 suspected cases. Venezuela reports over 4,500 confirmed cases, however unofficial estimates are thought to be as high as 400,000.
An alert to the first confirmed case of Zika virus in Brazil was issued in May 2015 by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). As of 1 February, Zika has been confirmed in 23 countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean. The spread of the disease is likely to continue as the vector species, the Aedes mosquito, is widely distributed in the region.
On 1 February 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a public health emergency, following a significant increase in the number of reported cases since the start of the year. The last time WHO declared a global health emergency was during the Ebola outbreak. The current Zika outbreak is unlikely to present a crisis of the same scale; the declaration has been issued to fast-track aid and further research, particularly due to a potential link with neurological disorders and congenital birth defects.
500,000 people in the Central American “Dry Corridor”, covering El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity, while around 1.3 million are facing moderate food insecurity. An El Niñorelated dry spell has resulted in significant crop losses during the primera season in all four affected countries for the second consecutive year, severely limiting food reserves in affected areas.
Northward population movement to Mexico and the US through South and Central America has steadily increased, with high numbers of migrants and asylum seekers registered across South and Central American countries in 2016. The increase in movement is driven by different phenomena, most prominently, the effects of gang violence in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Large numbers of migrants from Haiti and Cuba have also been observed, along with a smaller, yet significant number of displaced people from overseas countries such as Syria, Bangladesh, and Somalia.
The Crisis Overview 2016: Humanitarian Trends and Risks for 2017, outlines the countries where needs are greatest, and growing, as we approach the end of 2016.
Based on our weekly Global Emergency Overview (GEO), and four years of data on humanitarian needs across 150 countries, we have identified ten countries where humanitarian needs are likely to be highest in 2017, as well as four that merit attention, as they face a potential spike in needs. We also consider the humanitarian situation in the northern triangle region of Latin America, where the wide-ranging humanitarian impact of pervasive gang violence is chronically underreported.