Brazil | Covid-19 | 19th June 2021 | Virtual Wire
The half-million dead by COVID-19 in Brazil bears the stamp of social and economic inequality.
Even though the pandemic cannot be blamed for a historical problem in the country, the relationship between disease and inequality, researchers say, helps to understand the paths of the virus and its consequences, in addition to putting the future of a generation of Brazilians at risk.
In this scenario, understanding how the country’s social and economic fragility accentuates the health risk is to see that the poor are more affected by the crisis than the rich, in several aspects: they suffer more with it. And because of it, they take longer to recover.
“Historically, moments of pandemics or epidemics expose and deepen the inequalities of a society”, says professor Marcia de Castro, from the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard University.
This is not a reality exclusive to Brazil. In the United States, for example, the world's strongest economy, there is a higher proportion of cases and deaths among the Black, Latino and Indigenous population. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculates that, when adjusting the statistics for age, Indigenous, Blacks and Latinos are two to three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites in the country.
In Brazil, the context of inequality includes, in addition to the racial issue, specific problems such as informal working conditions, the existence of slums with precarious housing structures, a profound educational deficit, among others. The biggest disease is living in a country with so many inequities.
This was the conclusion reached in a survey conducted by Brazil’s Institute of Health Policy Studies (IEPS), published in April in the Lancet magazine. “When the pandemic emerged, the age issue seemed to determine a clear risk profile.
Over time, we have noticed a pattern according to which the disease, instead of spreading to places with more advanced age structure, has become a bigger problem in socially vulnerable places, regardless of the presence of older people”, says Rudi Rocha, chief researcher at IEPS and associate professor at Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV/SP).
That's why, even though the pandemic figures are just a glimpse of a specific moment, it's important to keep future consequences in mind. “In some ways, they show seeds being planted for an even greater increase in inequality in the future,” says Marcelo Neri head of the social department of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), referring to inequality in access to work, which he links to inequality also in education.
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