ECLAC analyzes the deep and multiple effects of the pandemic on the population of the region and provides recommendations for a transformative recovery with equality

The countries of the region must protect and strengthen the rights of all people in the post-pandemic reconstruction scenario, and attend to and respond to the various —and often overlapping— situations of disadvantage and vulnerability that affect their health and quality of life , proposes a new report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which analyzes the profound and multiple effects of COVID-19 on the different population groups in the region.

The document The sociodemographic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbeanincludes policy recommendations with a view to recovery and social and economic transformation, in light of the priority measures of the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development and the Goals and goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The report will be presented to the countries during the Fourth Meeting of the Regional Conference on Population and Developmentwhich will be held from June 28 to 30, 2022 at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile, an occasion on which high-ranking representatives of government, international organizations, the private sector, academia and civil society will debate the challenges posed by the health crisis for the implementation of Montevideo Consensus.

Two years after the pandemic was declared, Latin America and the Caribbean has a total of 1.7 million deaths reported by COVID-19 (as of May 2022). These represent 27.2% of all deaths from COVID-19 in the world, despite the fact that the population of the region only represents 8.4% of the world population.

The document addresses the adversities that the pandemic has brought to women and different population groups, in particular: boys, girls, adolescents and young people, the elderly, international migrants, indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant populations, and people with disabilities.

It states that the crisis affected the employment of women to a greater extent than that of men. The labor participation rate of women experienced an 18-year setback due to the crisis, falling from 51.8% in 2019 to 47.7% in 2020, while in the case of men it went from 75.5% to 70.8% in the same period. In 2022, it is estimated that the participation rate of women would have increased to 51.3%, a figure similar to that recorded in 2018. This represents a setback of four years, which still leaves one in two women of working age outside the labor market.

In the case of children and adolescents, the pandemic brought about the closure of educational centers, the postponement and suspension of regular health check-ups, as well as disruptions in feeding programs, which generated the risk of setbacks in the fight against child malnutrition in some countries. With regard to sexual and reproductive health, the redirection of monetary and human resources towards the containment and care of the health emergency left this dimension of health unattended, among others.

The mental health of children and adolescents has also been affected by different aspects of the pandemic, ranging from the impact of quarantine and confinement health measures to the experience of traumatic events, such as the loss of parents or caregivers. Regarding this last aspect, the report indicates that in five Latin American countries it is estimated that between March 2020 and April 2021 there were 380,000 cases of orphanhood, which amounts to more than 600,000 if those minors who have lost caregivers are added. primary or secondary. In fact, Latin America has the highest rates of orphans caused by COVID-19 in the world.

According to the estimates of the document, in 17 countries of Latin America-Abya Yala there are 57.7 million people belonging to one of the more than 800 indigenous peoples existing in the region, a figure that represents around 9.5% of the entire population.

It underlines that, despite the multiple data confirming greater vulnerability, state responses aimed at mitigating the social and health impacts of the pandemic among indigenous peoples have been weak and fragmented. In health matters, 16 of the 17 countries of Latin America-Abya Yala in which indigenous peoples live defined some specific technical standard or guideline to face the COVID-19 pandemic among said peoples.

In the case of people and communities of African descent, the report emphasizes that the pandemic has affected them differently, violating many of their rights and increasing inequality and the incidence of racism and discrimination.

The document also warns that, in a context of economic and health crisis, migration, both outside the region and within the region, has not stopped. In countries such as Chile and Colombia, in 2020 the pandemic caused a slowdown in the growth of migration, which had been occurring since 2017, and even a slight decrease in the number of migrants. However, current regional migration processes show a growing complexity, accompanied by an increase in irregularity and vulnerability, he points out.

In this sense, it underlines that, considering that there are more than 40 million migrants in the region, it is imperative to effectively have mechanisms for safe, orderly and regular migration.

The report dedicates a special chapter to reviewing the sociodemographic impacts of COVID-19 in the Caribbean, which merit a focused analysis given the specificities and particularities of the subregion, either in relation to the high burden of morbidity attributable to noncommunicable diseases or the reluctance to be vaccinated.

Lastly, it presents a series of conclusions and recommendations to achieve transformative and equal recovery within the framework of the priority measures of the Montevideo Consensus. In this framework, it is essential to place the protection of the rights and the promotion of the well-being of individuals, families and communities at the center of public policy response efforts.

It also highlights the importance of having robust, timely and resilient national statistical systems, capable of providing timely, accurate and disaggregated data for monitoring the effects of COVID-19 and defining action plans, both at the national level as local. It is necessary, in particular, to strengthen vital statistics and ensure the successful implementation of population and housing censuses.

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