France’s bilateral support to Latin America and the Caribbean in response to COVID-19
France is conscious of the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin American and the Caribbean, and is supporting the States and populations of Latin America in their fight against the pandemic and its impact. French assistance, in particular through France’s embassies and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD, French Development Agency), aims to meet three goals: provide emergency assistance to health systems in order to limit the spread of the virus; help sustain the livelihoods of native populations and the most vulnerable – especially women – by providing support that aims to mitigate the social and economic consequences of the crisis; and prepare for lasting post-crisis recovery.
1 - Healthcare support
This support, which aims to prevent the spread of the virus and help health systems to manage it, took different forms.
- In Haiti, €1.2 million was allocated to the Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory in Port-au-Prince, for three purposes: screening, treatment and protecting healthcare workers. The sum of €550,000 was redirected for the purchase of COVID-19 equipment.
- In Ecuador, €3 million was allocated to funding the emergency health programme put in place by Ecuador’s Development Bank. This support made it possible to equip state-owned companies and local governments with biological protection kits, test kits, ventilators and laboratory inputs.
- In Bolivia, an official development assistance grant fund of €1 million was reallocated to eight departments to strengthen capacities for diagnosis and treatment of the people affected.
- In Cuba, the Agence Française de Développement put in place funding of €5.3 million to help purchase equipment to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, namely respirators, protective equipment and items for use in diagnosis.
- In Brazil, France provided a grant of €3.2 million to the states of Amazonas and Amapa, enabling equipment to be purchased, essential food and hygiene products to be distributed and training and awareness-raising activities to be organized. The work in Amapa enhances French-Brazilian cooperation in the fight against the spread of the virus in regions near the border with French Guiana.
- In Dominican Republic, the AFD provided subsidies amounting to €500,000 for the National Health Service and the Ministry of Health to strengthen their epidemiological surveillance system.
- Lastly, in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, emergency funds were released to provide temporary support to the hospital system (in Leticia, Colombia) and security forces and fire departments (biosafety equipment, masks, etc.). As part of this emergency assistance, France also provided air transport in the Caribbean to carry medical cargo to several countries in the region.
In addition to these national efforts, regional capacity-building activities to fight the COVID-19 pandemic have also been implemented:
- In the Caribbean, with an AFD donation of €1.5 million to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to support infectious disease surveillance and health system resilience in relation to climate change.
- In South America, with assistance of €1.8 million to native populations of the Amazon Basin, through a contribution to the Emergency Fund set up by the Rainforest Foundation, to help the “Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin”. In Peru, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris signed an agreement to provide project consulting services in two public hospitals in Lima and Cuzco.
2- Social protection for the most vulnerable populations
France is conscious of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the most vulnerable populations, and has strived, together with the other donors active in the area, to support national efforts to assist those who have been the worst hit by the virus, as well as those for whom the containment measures had a more direct impact on their work. In cooperation with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), France, via the AFD, responded by funding ambitious assistance and social transfer programmes.
- In Brazil, €200 million in loans has been pledged to help finance emergency assistance programmes for disadvantaged populations, and to expand the “Bolsa familia” social transfer programme to reach 1.2 million vulnerable families identified by the Brazilian authorities. In total, the programme financed by the six donors will benefit more than 70 million people.
- In Bolivia, a €100-million programme is planned to finance emergency money transfers for children attending school, pregnant women, poor pensioners and people with disabilities. In both cases, the various donors ensure that the assistance targets and benefits the most vulnerable households.
3 - Economic consequences of the pandemic in Latin America and supporting lasting post-crisis recovery
According to the latest predictions by the World Bank, the IMF and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, the epidemic will have an extremely severe economic impact in the region. In addition to its usual actions targeting climate issues, the AFD provides countercyclical support to its partners to help them directly respond to COVID-19 challenges while helping them to maintain their commitment to the ecological transition despite the crisis (for example, it provided a €100-million credit line to the CAF - Development Bank of Latin America).
- The AFD will provide €160 million in credit lines for Brazilian regional development banks to support economic activity, employment and a lasting recovery. In Ecuador, the AFD is reallocating €20 million via public banks to help small and medium-sized enterprises and micro-entrepreneurs.
- Support for economic recovery also involves stimulating public investment, as shown by the €135-million project in Colombia to support local governments’ investments in basic infrastructures.
- These three goals can be combined in order to provide comprehensive support, as is the case in Dominican Republic, where a €200-million AFD loan will be used to fund the public health response (implementation of emergency health measures, suspension of taxes on medical items, reallocation of social contributions for COVID-19 screening and treatment), the social protection response (expanding social transfers to benefit vulnerable populations) and the economic response (payment arrangements for businesses), in partnership with the IDB.
All of these operations meet the urgent demand for liquidity injections, and are also part of the post-crisis recovery process, which is necessarily ambitious in terms of resilience, promoting gender equality and social and environmental sustainability.
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Through these exceptional financial measures – all grants and loans amount to more than €800 million – France, in support of and alongside its European partners and the European Union, is demonstrating its solidarity with the Latin American and Caribbean region, in the challenging circumstances it is experiencing due to the spread of the epidemic and its significant impact on the region’s economic and social structures. France remains at the disposal of the authorities in the countries concerned, in order to enhance cooperation in the public health field – a field that must see its capacities boosted if it is to be able to withstand international healthcare challenges.