Zika Losses from virus total $18bn - UNDP

UNDP, in a report, said Caribbean countries were the most affected, with an impact five times that of South America.

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Zika causes only mild symptoms in most people, but pregnant women with the virus risk giving birth to babies with microcephaly -- a deformation that leads to abnormally small brains and heads play

Zika causes only mild symptoms in most people, but pregnant women with the virus risk giving birth to babies with microcephaly -- a deformation that leads to abnormally small brains and heads

(AFP/File)
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The UN Development Programme (UNDP) says that the social and economic cost of the recent spread of the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean will total up to 18 billion dollars between 2015 and 2017.

UNDP, in a report, said larger economies such as Brazil were expected to bear the greatest share of the absolute cost. Caribbean countries are the most affected, with an impact five times that of South America, particularly due to reduced revenues from tourism.

The report’s key message is simple: Zika is responsible for tangible losses to gross domestic product, estimated to range from seven to18 billion U.S. dollars over 2015 to 2017 alone, imposing an immediate burden on health care and social welfare systems.

” More long-term, could undermine decades of hard-earned health gains and social development progress.

“Larger investments in prevention, preparedness and response strategies at the local, national and regional levels would be cost-effective and help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals,” the report said.

The report recommended preparedness strategies with community involvement and placing women at the centre of the response.

It also recommended protection programmes and care systems adapted and strengthened to reach those most in need, including women, girls and persons with disabilities.

“The promotion of gender equality and sexual and reproductive health are imperative for any Zika response to be effective,” the report argued.

The UNDP, in partnership with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), produced the assessment to measure the socio-economic impacts of Zika on countries, families and communities, and to examine institutional responses.

A focus of the assessment is the impact of Zika on the most marginalized and vulnerable women, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the global commitment to ‘leave no one behind’.

“UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Strategy, ‘Connecting the Dots’, recognizes reducing inequalities and social exclusion as central to health and development,” it said. 

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