Ecuador Is a Grisly Sign of How COVID-19 Will Devastate the Global South

Ecuador Is a Grisly Sign of How COVID-19 Will Devastate the Global South
Homeless people wait in a park for help from the authorities during the coronavirus crisis in Quito, Ecuador, March 24, 2020 (Photo by Juan Diego Montenegro for dpa via AP Images).

There is no shortage of wrenching details about the coronavirus pandemic so far. But few have been as shocking as the images coming out of Ecuador, where COVID-19 has already exacted a horrifying toll on impoverished residents and overwhelmed authorities. Scores of bodies lie on sidewalks and city streets, as the relatives of the dead plead for help.

Ecuador’s Guayas province has emerged as ground zero for the coronavirus in South America, with more cases reported there than in many Latin American countries as a whole. Its capital, the Pacific port city of Guayaquil, is the country’s most populous metropolitan area, but its caseload is far out of proportion to its size. It is home to most of the country’s diagnosed cases and deaths; the smell of death fills the city’s air. There are unique reasons why the pandemic has struck Guayas with such force, but those reasons offer no solace to the rest of the developing world. Ecuador, Guayas and Guayaquil all have characteristics that are easy to find in other countries. Their tribulations are an ominous sign of what lies ahead in the next phase of this global crisis.

In the weeks since the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the world, much of the attention has focused on the Northern Hemisphere—from China’s initial response, to the frantic efforts of Italy and the rest of Western Europe, and then New York and the rest of the United States, to deal with the onslaught of the disease. But it is in the Global South where this pandemic is likely to gouge its deepest wounds.

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