Alicia Bárcena, the head of the UN regional body for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has raised concerns regarding the disproportionate impact that the pandemic is having on indigenous people in the region.
“This is a bad time for this region: we are the epicenter of the pandemic, and extreme poverty rates are going up. Poverty is expected to affect almost 230 million people in this region, and almost 95 million of those are going to be in extreme poverty. When you look at who these people are, we’re talking mainly about indigenous peoples, and more than half are women, who are also very affected by the crisis,” she said.
She also lamented the lack of world leadership and appealed for cooperation.
“We are also confronting a lack of leadership in the world, to focus on this ‘public bad’: we need leadership, we don’t need each country focusing on its own problems. We need cooperation, we need collective action,” said Bárcena.
She said she has learned a lot from working with an indigenous people’s community in the Maya region.
“I learned from them the names of the plants, and what they were using the plants for. They have a perception of the world that is totally different from ours, by which I mean that of the Western world. They have a very clear vision that we are part of nature, and not here to conquer nature.”
Bárcena bemoaned the situation in the communities of the Amazon region, where “many hectares of forest, and where the communities are at risk” and people “do not have access to health care or clean water, and have been marginalized from the best land.”
She noted that the current situation is not new but has been playing out for some time.
“The current problems didn’t begin with the pandemic. We saw the trend in poverty reduction begin to reverse, in 2014. We had very mediocre growth, with fiscal austerity programs to stop this region getting further into debt,” she said.
She added that with the coronavirus, the crisis is worse than the one confronted in the 1980s.
” We’re going to see many more falling into poverty than ever before, probably around 230 million people.”
The UN regional head argued for the building of a social contract that would involve states, the private sector, and civil society.
Marcia Wright, Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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