As is the case in countries like the United States, this virus also mixes poisonously with the worst conditions in Brazil – most importantly, its status as one of the most unequal countries on the planet. If COVID-19 initially seemed like an egalitarian misery, overturning the lives of everyone, everywhere, he would at times reveal himself to be a plague that often hitched a ride on social injustice. That’s disproportionate torment poor people who don’t have the luxury of social distance, to obey lockdowns, in some cases even to wash hands, and who more vulnerable for health risks related to viruses. The cruel irony is that in some countries, including Brazil, the rich first brought the disease there, before returning to self-exile when the disease began to destroy the poor.
In Brazil, “the first wave of infected people is better, with high purchasing power, who travel abroad and come back with a virus,” Maria Laura Canineu, Brazilian director for Human Rights Watch, told me. “They are mostly white people who have access to tests and to private hospital services. But recently, we have seen more and more infection, hospitalization, and death among black people in the same way as you see in the U.S. “
Brazilian blacks are concentrated in poor and dense urban environments, including the extensive favelas in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where Canineu is located. Many who live in these areas lack proper sanitation such as access to clean water, let alone soap or hand sanitizers. So the simplest and most consistent advice during a pandemic—wash your hands—Not always practical for them. Some families live with 10 or 12 people in one room, which makes social distance impossible. Lots of big jobs in Brazil informal sector (like, say, a construction worker or a street vendor) and have to leave home to get money, giving them a bad choice: Your health risks to protect your livelihood, or risk your livelihood to protect your health. “This is a perfect condition for the spread of the virus,” Canineu said.
Residents of favela, where about 13 million Brazilians live, also depend heavily on the public health care system, which is destroyed by coronavirus cases. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, tuberculosis, and high blood pressure are very prevalent among this population, placing them at a higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19.
Gilson Rodrigues, president of the occupants’ association at Paraisópolis favela in São Paulo, told me that public policy on COVID-19 had not included “guidelines that take into account the reality of the favela.” In their absence, he helped find national network favela, who hired her own doctor, registered her own private ambulance fleet, made her own mask, provided accommodation for those who could not isolate themselves, organized food delivery, and offered financial assistance to professional entrepreneurs who had lost their jobs.