May 11, 2021 1 min, 17 secs

Hellen Ñañez has suffered enough tragedy for a lifetime.

"The truth is, I don't have any more tears," said Ñañez, who dropped out of studying psychology to work and help pay her father's medical bills.

Ñañez's story is a grim reflection of the tragedy unfolding in Latin America, a resource-rich but politically volatile region of some 650 million people stretching from Mexico to the near-Antarctic southern tips of Chile and Argentina.

It is set to hit the 1 million mark this month, which will make it the second region to do so after Europe.

But unlike wealthier Europe and North America, Latin American nations have lacked the financial firepower to keep people from sliding deep into poverty; underfunded healthcare systems have strained and inoculation programs have stalled.

Peru has officially confirmed 1.85 million COVID-19 cases and some 64,000 deaths, but that toll could be three times as high in reality, experts say.

Public health experts say Latin America has suffered an outsized hit from the pandemic, both in terms of health and growth, rattling fragile economies with high debt levels, steep inequality and where many work in less secure informal jobs.

Unlike North America, Europe or Asia, the region has also lacked the high-tech infrastructure to rapidly develop or manufacture vaccines.

A cottage industry has developed for wealthier Latin Americans to travel to Florida and Texas to get their shots.

My dad can't leave me," Ñañez said, sobbing, outside the hospital where she has come to check on the health of her father, who is in a coma

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