By: Ann Ciancia

3L at Syracuse University College of Law

During this summer I was a writer for the Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that helps fight global poverty. I was able to research different countries that were and are currently affected by poverty. It has been interesting to learn about how COVID-19 has had such a drastic impact on impoverished communities and fascinating to learn about the unique ways different countries handle healthcare, education, working, and much more throughout the pandemic.

The people of Latin America currently face two major epidemics at once. Dengue and COVID-19 in Latin America have killed thousands and continue to impact citizens. Although dengue is not extremely fatal, the combination of a coronavirus diagnosis can lead to serious complications. The clash of these two epidemics have created hardships for each country and brought governmental attention to healthcare and climate change.

Dengue in Latin America

Dengue, or breakbone fever, only affected nine countries in 1970, but currently, more than 100 countries are affected by this tropical disease. Dengue is a vector-borne disease, similar to malaria or yellow fever; where the saliva from a female mosquito transmits this disease to a human. An individual diagnosed with dengue experiences high fever, joint pain, severe headaches, and vomiting.

In 2019, more than 1,300 Latin Americans died from dengue disease, with more than 3.1 million confirmed cases, which was a record high. Major outbreaks of dengue in Latin America have increased and expanded into new mountainous regions. Scientists believe climate change is a major factor since non-tropical areas are being affected. Climate change has major consequences from increased rainfall and flooding that lead to changes in mosquitoes’ reproduction habits. The ecosystem has gradually declined in high altitude regions due to climate change, which led to an increase in dengue outbreaks.

While COVID-19 currently impacts Latin America, severe dengue outbreaks are currently impacting Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Bolivia has witnessed a severe dengue outbreak, where there were 7,000 new cases in March 2020 alone. The Andes Mountain Range is located within Bolivia, where three years ago, mosquitos were unheard of, due to a very high altitude. This epidemic increased due to changing weather conditions, where there has been a major increase in heavy rainfall. The local government in Bolivia declared the dengue epidemic to be a national emergency. 

COVID-19 in Latin America

During the beginning of the global pandemic, Latin America took a back seat and watched as the rest of the world suffered from the coronavirus. Currently, Latin America is becoming the new epicenter of the outbreak. There are more than 920,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and about 50,000 deaths across the 33 countries of Latin America. Currently, Latin America is positioned in the world’s only region where the outbreak continues to spread drastically.

Latin America’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was in February 2020. The first death was recorded in March 2020 but the region maintained control for months. The numbers began to surge in May and many countries were without proper testing kits, protective wear, and basic health supplies to help stop the spread.

Response to Two Epidemics: Dengue and COVID-19

In 2019, the World Health Organization identified dengue as one of the top ten global health threats, where more than 40 percent of the global population is at risk. The Red Cross is working with countries affected by the dengue outbreak to help local communities manage with the current and potential future outbreaks. The Red Cross, along with local health organizations, work to identify the source of the outbreak and what hygiene measures should be implemented in order to reduce a further spread.

SC Johnson donated 125,000 insect repellant and insecticide products to families in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. The company wants to help individuals protect their self from mosquitos. SC Johnson also helped to educate at-risk families on how to use mosquito repellant. Since the beginning of the program initiative in 2016, SC Johnson helped more than 900,000 families in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Currently, the World Bank disperses around $2 billion to Latin American and Caribbean countries in response to COVID-19. These funds will help increase health systems and disease observation, reduce losing patients from this disease, and lower the pandemic’s economic impact. In Bolivia, the Emergency Safety Nets for the Covid-19 Crisis aims to decrease economical consequences from the overpopulated health care system from coronavirus.

Dengue and COVID-19 in Latin America have impacted many lives. The clash of these two epidemics created hardships for countries in Latin America. Countries have utilized insect repellants to protect against the spread of dengue fever and took precautionary measures through stay-at-home orders and wearing masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

For further information, please see:

Reliefweb – Community action against Dengue – 7 Jan. 2020

Aljazeera – ‘Dengue kills too’: Latin America faces two epidemics at once – 12 May 2020

The New Humanitarian – Is Global Warming Driving the Spread of Dengue Across Latin America? – 27 Apr. 2020

CSRwire – SC Johnson Donates Mosquito Repellents to Help At-Risk Families in Latin America – 7 May 2020

CNN – The World’s new Covid-19 epicenter could be the worst yet – 30 May 2020

The World Bank – World Bank’s Response to Covid-19 (Coronavirus) In Latin America & Caribbean – 2 Apr. 2020 

Author: Nadia Abed