FEATURE-‘Promote the home’: Latin People beg and borrow to pay COVID-19 money owed

By Daniela Desantis and Carlos Valdez

ASUNCIÓN/LIMA, March 8 (Reuters) – Sandra Contreras, camped exterior Lima’s Villa el Salvador hospital, is operating out of funds to pay for her mom’s COVID-19 remedy, an indication of skinny welfare programs round Latin America which might be dragging many into debt and poverty.

“I’ve pawned all my issues,” Contreras, 34, instructed Reuters between tears exterior the hospital, the place she has arrange a hammock as she waits for news of her mom, contaminated amid a resurgence of coronavirus instances within the Andean nation.

“I mentioned to my siblings: ‘What do I care if we have now to promote the home to save lots of my mom? We’re going to do it.'”

Latin America, the place international locations are seeing a mixture of reopening and new waves of COVID-19, has been exhausting hit by the pandemic, with 22 million individuals pushed into poverty and weak social security nets, an annual U.N. report mentioned on Thursday.

It mentioned the quantity in excessive poverty was at a stage not seen for 20 years, and it pointed to deep structural inequalities, a sprawling casual labor market and an absence of efficient well being care protection – which means many individuals find yourself paying for remedy out of pocket.

In Paraguay, that has sparked a wave of casual fundraising, with bake gross sales and short-term loans as members of the family search to satisfy the prices of medical care.

Mirta González, a 34-year-old manicurist from a small city in southern Paraguay, took an categorical mortgage when her husband Jesús bought sick and was transferred to the capital Asuncion. She spent 6.5 million guarani ($985) on medicines and provides.

Household and associates organized raffles and bought pizzas to lift extra funds.

“Right here with out contacts or cash you’ll die,” González instructed Reuters whereas ready to be known as by a loudspeaker to ship medication to her husband at INERAM, the primary COVID-19 remedy middle within the nation.

Within the landlocked nation of some seven million individuals solely round one in 5 have social safety and heath cowl by way of their jobs, and solely round 7% pay for personal cowl, authorities knowledge present. Free state care is open for all however may be very restricted.


Within the Brazilian metropolis of Manaus, the place a surge in COVID-19 case in January led to a collapse in public well being companies, Cintia Melo was pressured to take care of her 87-year-old mom at residence, hiring carers and a ventilator, and renting or shopping for oxygen cylinders.

“There have been completely no hospital beds in any respect,” the freelance video producer mentioned by phone. She mentioned it was costing about 20,000 reais ($3,553) a month and, regardless that her mom was now recovering, she would nonetheless want take care of a number of extra weeks, possibly months.

“The prices have not completed but,” Melo mentioned.

Verónica Serafini, an financial researcher in Paraguay, mentioned well being bills have been the primary driver pushing individuals into debt and this might snarl a revival of progress after the pandemic eased, key because the commodities-rich area appears to bounce again.

“As an alternative of investing in a home, enterprise or schooling, we’re stepping into debt for well being. And there is not any risk of progress if individuals lose belongings once they get sick,” she mentioned.


The wave of indebtedness comes as hundreds of thousands of Latin American households grieve family members who died throughout the pandemic. The area has recorded greater than 687,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, a Reuters tally exhibits, second solely to the demise toll in Europe.

Renata Granados, 24, and her household in Querétaro, Mexico, have been pressured to promote the household pick-up truck in a raffle after her sister Paloma bought contaminated and died after 21 days in hospital. The invoice was 7 million Mexican pesos (about $330,000).

“The bills have been very massive when she was within the hospital and we needed to discover a approach to increase funds,” mentioned Granados, who herself is coaching to be a health care provider. She mentioned her sister had been an inspiration.

“I really feel prefer it was a blow that nobody was ready for.”

The report final week by the U.N.’s Financial Fee for Latin America and the Caribbean mentioned that along with rising poverty the pandemic had brought about rising social tensions.

But it surely mentioned issues can be worse with out measures taken by Latin American governments to switch emergency earnings to some 84 million households, or about half the inhabitants.

The fee’s govt secretary, Alicia Bárcena, mentioned individuals have been dwelling by heightened uncertainty as a result of pandemic and that “it’s mandatory to construct again with equality and sustainability, aiming to create a real welfare state, a process lengthy postponed within the area.”

Again in Peru, 26-year-old Yoselin Marticorena waited exterior the Villa el Salvador hospital for news about her father. Her mom and sister additionally had COVID-19 signs and she or he mentioned there was nobody left to assist assist her.

“I do not know what to do, I really bought every little thing already,” she mentioned amid pitched tents exterior the hospital. “I already bought into debt. I’ve nobody else to ask for assist.”

($1 = 6,596.5300 guarani) ($1 = 5.6298 reais) ($1 = 21.0690 Mexican pesos) (Reporting by Daniela Desantis in Asuncion, Carlos Valdez in Lima, Carlos Carrillo in Querétaro, Mexico, and Stephen Eisenhammer in Sao Paulo; Modifying by Adam Jourdan and Daniel Wallis)

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