UN helps LatAm cope with COVID-19 as region becomes new epicenter
CGTN
The Corabastos market, one of Latin America's largest food distribution centers, during a lockdown due to the new coronavirus in Bogota, May 31, 2020. /AP

The Corabastos market, one of Latin America's largest food distribution centers, during a lockdown due to the new coronavirus in Bogota, May 31, 2020. /AP

The United Nations (UN) is helping countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to cope with COVID-19 as the region is becoming the new epicenter of the pandemic, said a UN spokesman on Monday.

Nearly 938,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 49,000 associated deaths were reported as of Saturday across Latin America and the Caribbean. Daily infections in Latin America and the Caribbean have surpassed those in Europe and the United States, making it the new epicenter of the pandemic, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

South America, where Brazil, Peru, Chile and Ecuador have the most cases, has over 800,000 infected people and more than 38,000 deaths, said Dujarric.

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The UN has been supporting governments and civil society in the region through its different agencies, funds and programs, he said.

Pedestrians and commuters wearing face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic crowd a sidewalk near a bus stop in Caracas, June 1, 2020. /AP

Pedestrians and commuters wearing face masks amid the new coronavirus pandemic crowd a sidewalk near a bus stop in Caracas, June 1, 2020. /AP

In Venezuela, the UN and its partners have been providing assistance to more than one million people since mid-March, mostly in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene. In Colombia, over 750,000 people have been reached since the end of April, mainly with health response.

In Guatemala, where there are more than 4,700 confirmed cases and over 100 deaths, the UN team on the ground has been supporting the government's emergency response to the virus and provided one million U.S. dollars.

The UN team is focusing on providing health services, protecting and training health workers and improving surveillance capacities, he said.

On Thursday, World Food Program (WFP) estimated that 10 million additional people could join the 3.4 million across the region who were already unable to meet their basic food needs.

"It is vital and urgent that we provide food assistance to the growing number of vulnerable people in the region, as well as those who depend on informal work", said Miguel Barreto, WFP regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, adding that "We still have time to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from becoming a hunger pandemic."

(With input from agencies)