For many, quarantining is starving.
“If I can’t work, I can’t eat, it’s as simple and straightforward as that,” said Mario Muñoz Cruz, a shoe shine in Mexico City. “If doctors and experts tell me to stay home, I ask them, ‘What do I eat then?’ “
Although the virus has an apparently democratic quality (it can infect anyone, including leaders such as the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández), it continues and exploits the disparities that already divide the region.
Risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are generally higher among the poor. And while the wealthy can afford private hospitals, the poorest depend on public health systems looted by years of neglect. On average, the nations of the region spend about a quarter of what the developed nations spend each year on health.
Even in countries where the response was possibly exemplary, such as Peru, endemic poverty overwhelmed the best of intentions. Now the country is fighting against one of the worst outbreaks in the world, and the economic consequences.
Delmira Vásquez, 36, moved to the capital Lima in early March, like many Peruvians from poorer provinces who have seen their hopes in the pandemic fade away.
Her husband, a construction worker, found a job a week after arriving in Lima, but lost it the following week due to the strict national closure that closed most activities.
“Now we only eat because our neighbors feel sorry for us,” said Ms. Vásquez from a one-bedroom cabin in a shantytown that she shares with her husband and three children.