Battling disease and denial in Brazil | Development and Peace

Battling disease and denial in Brazil

After dismissing COVID-19 as “a little flu” and sacking his dissenting health minister, President Jair Bolsonaro joined street demonstrations against lockdowns aimed at containing the pandemic. Meanwhile, more than 40,000 Brazilians have contracted the disease and over 2,500 have died from it, accounting for over half of South America’s COVID-19 death toll.

Worryingly, the pandemic has reached remote populations whose vulnerabilities are intensified by poverty and deficient healthcare. At least one death has been reported among the Mura of Manaus, an Indigenous community at the focus of our For our Common Home campaign.

Piquiá de Baixo perfectly illustrates how the pandemic exacerbates existing crises. Already suffering decades of industrial pollution, the Maranhão community was struck by torrential rains last month, which breached a local dam, destroyed houses and displaced hundreds of people.

Observing physical distancing and donning protective gear, small teams from our partner, Justiça nos Trilhos, are helping rebuild homes and educating the community about COVID-19 and hygiene. An expert is also visiting weekly to provide psychosocial support.

Across Brazil, our various grassroots partners are:

  • Working from home and only meeting online as far as possible
  • Observing strict hygiene and distancing protocols when in-person contact is unavoidable
  • Conducting public education using posters, social media and podcasts
  • Countering misinformation from government and corporate sources
  • Campaigning for better healthcare, social services and lockdown measures for Indigenous communities
  • Supporting the anti-pandemic efforts of local governments that are acting more responsibly than the centre
  • Calling for a moratorium on mining, logging and industrial agriculture in protected areas and Indigenous communities