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How American Muslims Can Support Latin America Through A Humanitarian Crisis

“It is not your task to guide them, for Allah guides whom He wishes. And whatever charity you give, then it will be for your own benefit” (Quran 2:272).

The COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging through Latin America. What began as a health crisis has turned into a humanitarian crisis. There is, unfortunately, a massive toll from Colombia to Argentina because of the syndemic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the region. 

Why are the death rates so high in Latin America from COVID-19?

It is a deadly combination of a growing problem of people displacement (refugees fleeing countries), a lack of access to healthcare, and most importantly, poverty. The Lancet reports that Latin America has some of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world.  

An estimated 231 million people in Latin America are predicted to be living in poverty by the end of 2020 (reaching a level last seen 15 years ago).  

A Zakat Foundation of America representative distributes a food package during Ramadan 2019. | Zakat Foundation of America photo

Except for Brazil and Costa Rica, which have universal health care, Latin American countries have disparate gaps when it comes to health care access. This means most people in Latin America have to pay out of pocket for health care expenses. The lack of easily accessible health care has added fuel to the pandemic that is spiraling out of control in regions without universal health care.  

Islam urges Muslims to help all people

It is in our Islamic heritage to help humankind regardless of faith. When early Muslims in Medina didn’t know if they could help their struggling Jewish relations, a verse from the Quran was revealed: 

“It is not your task to guide them, for Allah guides whom He wishes. And whatever charity you give, then it will be for your own benefit” (Quran 2:272).

A girl in the Dominican Republic smiles at a Zakat Foundation of America food distribution. | Zakat Foundation of America photo

Our Prophetic example shows us that we are supposed to be charitable to all, not just Muslims. Prophet Muhammad, on him be peace, said: “Give charity to people of other faiths” (Reported by Ibn Abī Shaybah 3/177 — see al-Ṣaḥīḥa 2766).

How can Muslims help with this humanitarian crisis in Latin America?

According to the World Bank, it is not enough to provide short-term aid. We need to invest in the region’s infrastructure to address chronic poverty. Areas with lower rates of access to clean water, sewage systems, or sanitation facilities tend to have higher rates of chronic poverty

Zakat Foundation of America has been implementing humanitarian programs and aid in Latin America that address the root causes of this crisis. For over a decade, our Latin America Programs Coordinator, Veronica De Pasquale, has created programs that place a large focus on empowering and educating disadvantaged women and children

“South America has enjoyed a certain level of growth in past decades, but instability continues to ravage the region and affect the most vulnerable,” De Pasquale said. “Poverty, violence and inequality have been on the rise, as well as informal employment and a devastating inflation rate that mainly affects the lower classes who are unable to foresee and prepare for drastic changes in prices, including basic food items.”

By opening an office in Cordoba, Argentina, the Zakat Foundation of America seeks to expand and streamline humanitarian efforts to the region. This office gives Muslim donors a strategic humanitarian boost to the Latin American areas via women’s and girls’ vocational empowerment programs in the region. It also extends computer and language training for the area’s young adults. 

People will thrive if they are given an opportunity. Give someone the chance to grow and overcome their difficulties today.  

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