By Quentin Choy
April 21, 2021
Aside from wars with drug cartels in Mexico, violence in Central America, rising authoritarianism and COVID-19 cases in Bolsonaro’s Brazil, and humanitarian crisis in Maduro’s Venezuela, there are two existing humanitarian crises that many in North America may be unaware of.
Firstly, in the Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, devastating volcanic eruptions from La Soufiere volcano on April 9th has caused several humanitarian problems. Over 16,000 evacuated before the volcano’s eruption, and around 20% of the island’s population are now displaced according to Al Jazeera.
United Nations agencies have set aside money to help with crucial crises such as providing food and water to St. Vincent. Much of the island’s freshwater has been contaminated with volcanic ash making lack of potable water a severe issue. Nations such as Guyana, Dominica, and Trinidad & Tobago have committed to providing funds and supplies to Saint Vincent. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves continues to seek assistance from the United Nations and the global community.
The second humanitarian crisis happening plagues much of Latin America, and that crisis is the lack of access in Latin American countries to COVID-19 vaccines. According to The Associated Press, Latin America has received around 7% of the vaccine distributed globally.
However, Latin America accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s COVID-19 deaths, despite only comprising about 8% of the world population. 8 percent of the world accounts for 30 percent of COVID-19 deaths.
Due to this disproportional effect on Latin America, leaders from across the region attended the Iberoamerican Summit, a meeting between Latin American leaders and the leaders of Spain and Portugal in Andorra. A major goal of Latin American leaders is to urge President Biden and leaders of other first-world countries to suspend patents of COVID-19 vaccines so that these nations can begin to develop vaccines and treat their citizens.
The U.S. should absolutely suspend these patents so that the global population can get vaccinated and travel can resume. What good is it to get vaccinated and travel if the majority of other global travelers aren’t vaccinated as well?
The volcanic eruption in Saint Vincent reminds us that while there are lots of crises occurring in public health, politics, policing, and in war, natural disasters still affect the world, often intensifying already-existing crises. The vaccination crisis in Latin America reminds us that while the United States and its vaccination rates may be easing us back to normal life, a full return cannot be achieved until other countries reach the same levels of vaccination.
Image Courtesy of the Associated Press.