UN chief Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday said as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world, Latin America and the Caribbean have become the "hotspot of the pandemic."
The UN Chief made these remarks while releasing a new policy initiative on how best to recover in a region already embroiled in poverty, hunger, unemployment and inequality, reports UN News.
Several countries now have some of the highest averages of infection rates and shines a light on how the crisis is impacting vulnerable groups, including indigenous people and women, he said.
"The most vulnerable populations and individuals are once again being hit the hardest," Guterres said in a video message on the pandemic's effect throughout a zone grappling with fragmented health services – even before the coronavirus.
The UN chief spotlighted women, who make up the majority of the workforce and now bear the brunt of additional caregiving.
Older persons and individuals with disabilities are at greater risk from the virus while indigenous peoples, those of African descent, migrants and refugees have been suffering disproportionately, he said.
While stressing the need to "do everything possible to limit the spread of the virus and tackle the health effects of the pandemic", Guterres reminded: "We must also address the unprecedented social and economic impacts".
Guterres highlights the international support
The policy brief underlines an array of urgent and longer-term steps for better recovery, including the prioritization of distance learning and continued child-centered services to mitigate education interruptions.
Governments are also being asked to do more to reduce poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, such as by providing basic emergency income and anti-hunger grants.
Guterres also flagged the urgent need for greater international support.
"I have called for a rescue and recovery package equivalent to more than 10 percent of the global economy", reminded the UN chief, underscoring the need of the international community to provide liquidity, financial assistance and debt relief for Latin America and the Caribbean.
"Latin American and Caribbean countries – and in particular small island developing States – should not be excluded from global assistance", he asserted. "The international multilateral response needs to be extended to middle-income countries".
Build back better
Broader structural challenges must be addressed to build back better and transform the region's development model.
Against the backdrop of pervasive inequality, accessible and comprehensive welfare systems must be developed, fair taxation systems created, decent jobs promoted, environmental sustainability strengthened, and social protection mechanisms reinforced, according to the UN chief.
Moreover, regional economic integration is required, with "women participating fully and safely in public and economic life", he stressed.
"Building back better demands strengthening democratic governance, human rights protection and the rule of law, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," Guterres said.
Address root causes
The UN Chief maintained that the root causes of inequality, political instability and displacement must be addressed, while underscoring that at a time when too many citizens feel excluded, "greater accountability and transparency are crucial".
"Together, we can overcome this crisis and build inclusive and sustainable societies for all," concluded the UN chief.
He also expressed his full solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean as they face these challenges, saying that "solidarity and compassion should be their guide".