The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Tuesday warned of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on groups such as poor and indigenous people in the Americas including the Caribbean.
'If we want to slow the spread of the pandemic and put our region on a path to recovery, we must protect vulnerable groups from COVID-19,' the Dominican-born PAHO official told a virtual news conference.
Dr. Carissa F. Etienne
'The virus is surging across our region. We are increasingly worried about the poor and other vulnerable groups at greatest risk of illness and death from the virus. The recent spike in cases and fatalities is partly due to the virus taking root in these groups,' she added.
PAHO said more than two million cases and an estimated 121,000 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported in the Americas as of May 18 , a 14 per cent increase in both cases and deaths from last week.
Dr. Etienne called for improved access to effective public health measures, the strengthening of health system capacity to better serve vulnerable populations and for strong social and economic protection.
'During a pandemic, we must overcome the structural inequalities that limit access to services. This means establishing mechanisms that support universal access to health regardless of income, pooling resources with the private and not for profit sector, eliminating payment at point of service and setting up emergency hospitals that add surge capacity where it is most needed,' she said
PAHO said in the Amazon basin, including isolated villages of indigenous groups and densely populated cities, the incidence of COVID-19 is twice as high as in other provinces in the same countries.
'Without immediate action, these communities will face a disproportional impact,' she said, noting that vulnerable communities in large cities are also hard hit by the pandemic, where 'poor social and economic conditions provide a fertile breeding ground for COVID-19' along with the economic impact of people losing their jobs.
The PAHO official said women, who make up 70 per cent of the health workforce in the Americas, are also vulnerable, as they are on the frontlines and disproportionately affected by...