As at 29 October 2020, Latin America had reported close to 10.9 million cases of COVID-19 and close to 393,000 deaths. The region accounts for less than one tenth of the world’s population, yet has one third of the recorded deaths from COVID-19. Most schools in the region have remained closed since initial lockdown in March. Only two countries, Nicaragua and Uruguay, have fully reopened schools, while Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia have partially reopened schools. Schools in the remaining 12 countries of Central and Southern America remain closed, the majority through the end of 2020 or early 2021. As at 30 September, approximately 98% of more than 131 million school-aged children in Latin America were not receiving face-to-face education.
The deepening political and socio-economic crisis in Venezuela has led to one of the biggest mass displacements in the history of South America. Although no consolidated figure for the region is available, all sources indicate that migration from Venezuela to neighbouring countries is drastically increasing. 117,300 Venezuelans filed asylum claims in the first half of 2018 alone, already more than the number of asylum claims reported at the end of 2017 (113,438).
Many Venezuelans in host countries are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Food, nutrition, health and WASH needs have been identified. Protection assistance is also crucial, including legal help with documentation in order to access healthcare and employment. Venezuelan migrants also face growing xenophobia from host communities, and are at risk of exploitation, trafficking, and SGBV.
As the crisis inside Venezuela continues to deteriorate, host countries are increasingly struggling to respond to the influx of Venezuelans. The rising number of people entering neighbouring countries is putting a strain on basic services, especially in border areas. Recent measures in several countries deter Venezuelans from entering, such as limiting admission to people with a passport, or enforcing quotas at the border.
The economic crisis in Venezuela has led to a deterioration of the humanitarian conditions and increased humanitarian needs. Import restrictions and hyperinflation reduce availability and access to basic goods and services. The economic crisis is exacerbated by a political crisis revolving around the erosion of democratic institutions. While the number of people in need in Venezuela and the severity of need is unclear due to lack of data, surveys conducted by local organisations point to an increasingly dire situation. Migration to other countries in South America, particularly Colombia and Brazil, has significantly increased since 2017 and the host countries are increasingly struggling to receive these arrivals. Over one million Venezuelans are estimated to live in Colombia, up from some 300,000 in mid-2017. Priority needs of people affected by the crisis inside Venezuela include food, health, nutrition, and protection. Many migrants from Venezuela hosted by countries in the region also face growing humanitarian concerns, particularly protection and shelter needs.
In the last week of May, heavy rainfall and flooding were registered across the states of Pernambuco (PE) and Alagoas (AL) in northern Brazil. In Pernambuco, 24 out of 185 municipalities have declared state of emergency: 55,000 have been displaced and up to 2.2 million temporarily affected by damage to WASH infrastructure. In Alagoas, the highest estimates are of 16,000 people (4,000 families) displaced and 27 out of 102 municipalities in state of emergency, including the capital. As of 6 June, localised rains were still expected in Pernambuco but the overall level of rainfall for both states should decrease significantly.
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.