One year ago, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas launched an initiative that seeks to strengthen cooperation between Germany and Latin America and the Caribbean. The current COVID-19 pandemic in particular shows how important cooperation with other states and organisations is. We are working together to find ways to combat the pandemic and its economic and social impact. With 8.4 million registered COVID-19 infections and 320,000 deaths, the region of Latin America and the Caribbean is currently worst affected by the pandemic. Germany is therefore supporting countries in the region in many different ways – for example, by exchanging experience and knowledge, supporting civil society and providing ventilators for hospitals in Bolivia and hospital beds for Paraguay.
Fighting the pandemic with healthcare expertise
In order to contain local outbreaks, Germany is seconding epidemiologists to the region as part of the German Epidemic Preparedness Team. Through short-notice missions to affected areas, they help to detect disease outbreaks as early as possible, thereby preventing their spread. The first missions in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Ecuador have already been completed, and further deployments are planned. As part of the pandemic dialogue, a network of experts is to be established in the medium to long term, with the aim of more intensive and long-term cooperation in the healthcare sector. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional body of the World Health Organization (WHO), has received 10 million euro so that it can provide financial support for urgent Projects.
Helping women in the crisis
The outbreak of COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing social, political and economic inequality around the world. In Latin America and the Caribbean, women and girls are particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is hitting them harder because their jobs are often more precarious. They make up the majority of those employed in care professions, where they are more exposed to the virus. Furthermore, nationwide curfews have increased gender-based violence. According to the United Nations, domestic violence has increased by up to 80 percent in a number of Latin American and Caribbean countries. This is a threat to the safety of women and girls. In many places, support and prevention services for those affected have been interrupted or cannot be accessed due to the pandemic.
The Unidas network, which was established under the patronage of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in 2019 and is run by and for women from Germany, Latin America and the Caribbean, aims to promote equal opportunities in the region. To this end, it wants to raise the profile of women in politics, the media, society, business and science and increase the number of women in leadership roles. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the social isolation it has caused, digital networking is also becoming more and more important. For this reason, the Unidas communication platform is to be used more intensively for exchanging and transferring knowledge. The range of online events and digital seminars will be expanded on an ongoing basis to this end. In August and September, the Unidas women’s network hosted two webinars on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the situation of women in Latin America and the Caribbean. The civil society projects supported by Unidas (currently four projects in five countries) were also adapted to the new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mitigating the economic effects of the crisis
The slump in the global economy is also having a severe impact on Latin America and the Caribbean. To assist the most affected countries in the region, the IMF has assembled an aid package of approx. 100 billion US dollars. Furthermore, the German Government has urged the G20 and the Paris Club to defer 77 countries’ loan repayments as of May.
What applies to all international challenges is also true for the COVID-19 pandemic: crises can be best tackled and surmounted if everyone cooperates and pulls in the same direction. This is why the World Bank has made available more than 700 million US dollars at short notice to 14 Latin American countries. The European Union, too, is supporting the region’s efforts to combat coronavirus as part of its EU Global Response to COVID-19, with some 1.537 billion euro. This means that Germany and the EU are among the world’s largest humanitarian donors in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.
As Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said a year ago at the launch of the Latin America and Caribbean Initiative: The partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean is built on common values and principles that make us neighbours, even though we are separated by the Atlantic. This is the case in good times – and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.