A Red Cross volunteer conducts a rapid COVID test
Photo: Argentinian Red Cross


Panama, 28 April 2021 – As the Americas region continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for an urgent scaling up of public health interventions, vaccinations and economic support for the most vulnerable. With almost half of the cases and deaths from COVID-19 in the world, the continent continues to bear the brunt of this monumental crisis on various fronts.

Globally, transmission and new detected cases are now at the highest level seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Some of the highest numbers of new cases in the region continue to be reported in the US, Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay, Brazil, Peru and Paraguay are among the world’s top 10 countries with the highest number of new deaths reported per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Chile or Costa Rica the upward trend in transmissions has also caused additional pressures on the health systems.

Brazil is experiencing one of the highest global rates of COVID-19 deaths, as the more transmissible P1 variant spreads across the country. Last week, some states in Brazil reported more deaths than births for the first time during the pandemic.

Ghotai Ghazialam, IFRC’s COVID-19 Operation Manager in the Americas, said:

“To keep people safe and tackle the disparities between and within countries, it is key to ensure access to vaccines, maintain and strengthen public health measures, increase access to health services and psychosocial support. It is also essential to promote the economic recovery of all social groups affected by the pandemic and to address the basic needs of the most vulnerable, such as women or the elderly, migrants, LGBTIQ+, indigenous people or people with disabilities. Absolutely nobody should be left behind”.

The IFRC also warns that the poorest countries could be left behind in vaccination processes, a moral and public health catastrophe. Only one out of every thousand vaccines have been administered in countries of the Americas with medium human development, while in the least developed country[1], none have been administered.

“The unequal distribution of doses allows high levels of transmission to continue in the most vulnerable populations and creates opportunities for the emergence of further variants. Put simply, none of us is safe until we are all safe,” Ghazialam said.

Other countries, such as Chile, face a high number of new cases and deaths, despite the progress of their vaccination campaign. This could be attributed to a mix of factors such as the spread of the new variants, pandemic fatigue, and the relaxation of prevention and control measures.

The economic impact of the pandemic could also influence new infections. Many people who already lived in poverty and saw their income fall during the first waves of the pandemic are now forced to go to work or live in more crowded spaces. This is the case of 54% of workers in the region, who have an informal job, without social security coverage or labour benefits.

In Brazil and Chile, the Red Cross is supporting vaccination campaigns to reach the most vulnerable and marginalized communities. In other countries, such as El Salvador, it provides cash transfers so that the most affected families meet their most pressing needs. However, only about 50% of the funds needed for the IFRC emergency appeal have been raised. The world’s largest humanitarian network fears that it may no longer be able to keep people safe, guarantee access to the vaccines, and protect the livelihoods of those who need it most.

About IFRC

The International Federation is the world’s largest humanitarian network, made up of 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.

www.ifrc.org – Facebook – Twitter – YouTube 

[1] Analysis of where vaccines have been administered; the relative scope of the evidence; and which countries carry out full, partial or no contact tracing is based on Oxford University’s ‘Our World in Data’ (the latest available data used) and the INFORM Severity index, an inter-agency tool that measures the severity of humanitarian crises and disasters worldwide. (Data used from January 2021).

For a full list of countries listed by crisis severity, visit the INFORM Severity index. All data sets have some gaps.

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Media contacts

In Panama: Susana Arroyo, +506 84161771, susana.arroyo@ifrc.org

In Geneva: Ann Vaessen, +41 79 405 77 50, ann.vaessen@ifrc.org