Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in South America Represent 87 Per Cent of the Total in Latin America - IOM Launches Urgent Appeal

Buenos Aires – The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) reached South America later than other regions, but as of 21 May, of the 563,550 of COVID-19 cases reported in Latin America by the World Health Organization (WHO), 491,499 are in this region (87 per cent of all cases). Brazil has become the country with the highest number of coronavirus infections in Latin America. Worldwide, only the United States and the Russia Federation have recorded more cases. 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) today launched an urgent appeal seeking USD 21.2 million to alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable migrants and their host communities in ten South American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.  

This Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) for South America is a comprehensive, coordinated response that addresses immediate health concerns as well as the longer-term socio-economic impact of COVID-19. The SPRP also aims to counter misinformation that can lead to anti-migrant sentiment, stigma and xenophobia. 

In addition to the direct health risks of COVID-19, migrants in South America are facing significant and exacerbated socio-economic and protection challenges. With the economic slowdown, migrants are among the most vulnerable communities at risk of stigmatization and exclusion. 

“South America is now becoming one of the most affected regions worldwide, occupying the third place in terms of number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, after the U.S and Europe,” said Adriana Escariz, acting IOM Regional Director for South America. “Millions of migrants across the region are in need of urgent help, especially those most vulnerable,” she added. “Funding is urgently needed to respond to COVID-19 in a region already facing the outflow of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, one of the largest external displacement crises in the world.”  

South American countries have adopted restrictive human mobility measures to reduce the impact of the pandemic. Lockdowns, curfews, business and border closures have caused migrants to lose their jobs, with negative impacts on incomes and remittances, often resulting in the loss of their regular migratory status and blocking their possibility of return. These all are factors that substantially increase vulnerability. The closure of borders has caused a pressing situation for hundreds of stranded individuals, many in some cases who are unable to meet their most basic needs including food, accommodation and health care.  

There are about 10 million migrants living in South America from different countries of the region and the world. Of them, 80 per cent are intra-regional migrants, with migration from Venezuela being the most important in quantitative terms.  

Overall, the conditions of urban spaces in South America are fragile due to problems such as the deficit in public transport and healthcare services, and also the concentration of informal settlements. A new pattern of internal migration has emerged from this crisis, with a significant number of internal migrants moving from the big urban centres to the small cities and rural towns located in the provinces, due to the job loss or interruption of continuity of the work in the informal sector.  

In line with the IOM global SPRP, the regional plan for South America focuses on four strategic priorities at the community, national and regional levels, which are: 

  1. Ensure a well-coordinated, informed, and timely response through mobility tracking systems and strengthening partnerships and coordination structures established at the community, national and regional levels. 
  2. Contribute to global, regional, national and community preparedness and response efforts for COVID-19 to reduce associated morbidity and mortality. 
  3. Ensure access of affected people to basic services and commodities, especially to those in most vulnerable conditions, including health care, and protection and social services. 
  4. Support international, national, and local partners to respond to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. 

The appeal can be downloaded here.  

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2020 and beyond. The Platform is regularly updated as crises evolve and new situations emerge. 

For more information, please contact Juliana Quintero at the IOM Regional Office in Buenos Aires, Tel. + 54 11 32488134, Email: