By Lydia O’Kane
The death toll in Brazil from Covid-19 continues to rise. Another 1,480 deaths were reported on Monday, as the government comes under pressure over its handling of the outbreak.
The country’s Health Ministry figures show reported cases now stand at 13.5 million since the start of the pandemic, while there have been over 354,000 deaths.
With the situation worsening, a committee is being set up to investigate how President Jair Bolsonaro's government has dealt with the pandemic.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, Cecilia Iorio, Brazil country representative for the UK aid agency CAFOD, said the outbreak could have been handled better.
“The total amount of the people that have died of Covid tells something about the negligence, the lack of planning, the denial and the promotion of ineffective treatment,” she said.
Indigenous and Rural communities
According to CAFOD, Covid-19 cases have now been confirmed in 23 of the 37 regions of the Yanomami Territory. Located between the states of Roraima and Amazonas, the area is home to around 26,700 indigenous people, including isolated groups, who are even more vulnerable to disease.
Ms Iorio emphasized that Indigenous and rural communities have been hit exceptionally hard over the last six months.
The situation of Indigenous communities, she said, is “really sad” because apart from the number of people dying – usually the elderly – the virus is also claiming the lives of young people, including children.
In some areas, the Country Representative added, “90% of the population has been infected by Covid and one of the reasons is because the Yanomami territory has been invaded by many small miners and they bring the disease with them.”
As Indigenous and rural communities suffer as a result of this pandemic, there is also concern for the country’s urban poor who are now going hungry because of the current economic situation. In addition, many people have lost the breadwinner in the family due to the novel coronavirus.
Like the UK, Brazil has a national health service, but due to a wave of cases, this system is being put under extreme strain.
Ms Iorio points out that in some areas of the Amazon, health workers are having to do their jobs without equipment such as oxygen cylinders. Even in Sao Paolo, she said, the health service “is struggling with a lack of medicine, a lack of oxygen… and many health professionals have been denouncing the lack of planning.”
CAFOD and Church support
As the current situation deteriorates further, CAFOD is continuing to support local partners on the ground in the country. Their focus is on the homeless and people living in shanty towns, and they are providing them with EPP equipment. Indigenous communities, too, are being given supplies and assisted in the area of sanitation.
Ms Iorio noted how the Church has been involved in local campaigns to collect food and other hygiene materials. “The Church in Brazil has been very active in providing support and trying to reach areas where no one can reach, particularly with the lack of response from the government.”
The Country Representative said she is praying the situation does not get any worse, because so many families have already suffered because of the pandemic: “We are talking about every single life as a gift of God being cut short.”