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(Barbados Today) UNITED NATIONS — A new United Nations report has found that in addition to the impact on public health, the mosquito-borne Zika outbreak could cost the Latin American and the Caribbean region as much as US$18 billion between 2015 and 2017.

The report, titled “Socio-economic impact assessment of Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean”, prepared by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has a particular focus on Brazil, Colombia and Suriname – countries that first reported the outbreak in October-November 2015.

UNDP assistant administrator and director of its Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jessica Faieta, underscored the far-reaching impact of the virus, beyond tangible losses, such as to the gross domestic product (GDP) and on the implementation of the 2003 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“The consequences of the virus can undermine decades of social development, hard-earned health gains and slow progress towards [achieving] the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” she said.

The UN said the assessment also “clearly showed that the impact of the virus was felt the most in poorer countries” such as Haiti while larger economies, such as Brazil, could bear the greatest “absolute” burden.

“Zika reminds us that all countries and peoples remain vulnerable to emerging infectious diseases, and that a disease that primarily affects poorer populations has wide-ranging social and economic implications for entire communities,” said Magdy Martínez-Solimán, the UNDP assistant administrator and director of its Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.

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