Note from BW of Brazil: Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you know that most everything that on the news and front of newspapers and magazines these days is the so-called Covid-19, or the coronavirus. Don’t get me wrong, I DO understand the necessity of the latest information, but at a certain point I also see the media’s constant focus on this as a method of fear-mongering, hysteria creation and overkill. The bottom line here is, if one doesn’t have a very weakened immune system, takes precautions such as washing one’s hands, this thing doesn’t have to be made into a health tsunami.
It’s funny, well, maybe ironic would be a better choice of words for purposes of clarity here, but people who tend to look beyond the mainstream news as their source of information have been saying for years that something major would probably happen under the Donald Trump Administration, and this just might be it. Call me the conspiracy theorist, but don’t be surprised if The Donald doesn’t take advantage of this emergency to implement more policies that, on the one hand are designed to protect Americans, on the other hand will also strike down more American freedoms and liberties, and default, what gets pushed in the US will eventually make its ways to other nations. You all do remember everything George W. Bush did after September 11th in the name of security and the “War on Terror”, right? If you don’t know, maybe you should look it up.
Anyway, the effect on Brazil is slowly starting to ramp up. Last week, I remember seeing very few people wearing masks on the streets of São Paulo, and of the ocassional mask that I saw, it seemed that persons of Asian descent were much more likely to wear masks than white, black and mixed Brazilians. In the past two days, I’ve noticed a rising number of people I would describe as white wearing masks in the streets, but as I reported to a friend earlier today, I had yet to see any black people wearing masks.
But wouldn’t you know it, the moment I got off a bus on my morning commute, I saw the first black woman/person I’d seeing with the white mask covering her mouth. And as the day went on, I counted, another four black people, all women, wearing masks. I’m not gonna make this bigger than it is, after all, in a city like São Paulo with a population of around 11-12 people people, seeing about 20-25 people wearing masks per day is no cause for alarm, even if I were to increase this figure 100 times. But it’s still a noticeable change to what one usually sees.
With that said, as this blog discusses Brazil from the perspective of race, I was curious as to how the alarm over this latest virus could be broken down in terms of race. The thing I heard in terms of race was the idea that Africans were somehow immune to the virus. When a colleague first said this to me last week, I pondered the possibility for a split second before I shrugged it off as ridiculous. Not only is this idea not true, but you got the world’s number pusher of vaccines, Bill Gates, out here telling us that the virus could hit Africa worse than China and eventually lead to 10 millions deaths. Thanks for spreading more panic Mr. Gates.
I’m not gonna get into the doom and gloom aspect of this but I look at the whole thing a little different than most, but I do want to consider how this virus could mean very different things for Brazilians depending if they happen to fall on the white or non-white side of the racial fence. What do race have to do with it? In fact, we still can’t really answer that question sufficiently, but we can look and see how the status of Brazil’s health care system could help us face some realities that once again show us skin color factors into almost any social issue when dealing with this country.
With barely viable containment, Covid-19 impacts the lives of blacks more
Eight out of ten SUS patients declare themselves black; investments in the sector have been frozen for 20 years
By Juca Guimarães; Editing: Simone Freire and Pedro Borges, Photo: Sandro Barros
The Covid-19 pandemic, the coronavirus, in Brazil had, in five days, a 160% increase in the number of confirmed cases, according to the Ministry of Health. With the number of cases spreading considerably, the ministry predicts that the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS – Unified Health System) will be overloaded in a few days.
This hypothesis raises several concerns, mainly for the black population, which represents 80% of the patients treated by the System, and who already have difficulties in accessing quality care.
“The black population already faces a high degree of vulnerability due to the lack of public health equipment, due to the scrapping of the SUS”, said biologist Maria José Tavares, master in Human Pathology at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) and Fundação Oswaldo Cruz.
Tavares considers SUS to be a strategic program capable of combating the pandemic, however, government action increases the risks to the population because it goes against investment. She cites as an example the Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PE) 95, approved at the end of 2016 under the Michel Temer government (MDB), and which froze investments in health for 20 years.
Added to this is the fact that, at the end of last year, for example, the government of President Jair Bolsonaro cut around BRL 7 million from the budget for the Health sector.
The virus can be fatal for those who have diabetes, asthma or hypertension. These are chronic diseases for which the black population is most vulnerable. According to the National Health Policy of the Black Population report released in 2017 by the Ministry of Health, for example, hypertension is higher among men and tends to be more complicated in blacks, of both sexes.
In turn, diabetes affects black men (9% more than white men) and black women (around 50% more than white women) more frequently.
Staying at home and avoiding social contact is the main guideline for controlling the expansion of Covid-19, according to the health agencies and authorities of the federal and state governments. The main purpose of the orientation is to avoid overloading the SUS system.
However, not passing through the city to avoid going to the workplace is not an option for many Brazilians. Domestic service, for example, requires the worker to be in the place in which he or she provides services. In São Gonçalo, in Rio de Janeiro, for example, despite being infected by the virus, a couple kept a domestic worker working regularly at the residence.
Characterized by the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA) as a precarious activity, with low income, low social protection, discrimination and even harassment, more than six million Brazilians work as domestic workers. They are monthly wage earners, day laborers, babysitters, caregivers, drivers, gardeners or any other professionals hired to take care of their employers’ homes and family.
“The socioeconomic effects of ‘Corona’ [Covid-19] will be dramatic for the poorest and microentrepreneurs, self-employed and wage earners who cannot work from home,” said Joilda Nery, a professor at the Institute of Collective Health (ISC / UFBA).
And the black population, again, is in evidence in this comparison. Of the total domestic workers in the country, 92% are women – mostly black, with low education and coming from low-income families.
“The format for containing the spread of the virus will not be effective for the black population without the State acting to guarantee the subsistence of this population”, says Maria Tereza.
Prison and street
Vulnerable conditions, such as those on the streets and the prison population, also trigger a red alert on Covid-19.
There are currently about 812,000 prisoners, 61% of whom are pretos (blacks) or pardos (browns), according to the Ministry of Justice database.
“The homeless population needs special care. We are still at the beginning of the epidemic. Without a plan the picture can become quite dramatic. Another point is the prison system, which has historically been overcrowded, visits have already been banned, but more protective measures are important,” said Maria Menezes.
Source: Alma Preta