As Eliana, a Compassion partnership facilitator, watched the first boxes of donated medical supplies get unloaded by staff at the local hospital in Patos, Brazil, she was overwhelmed with emotion. She knew the impact the delivery of masks, caps, gowns, sanitizer and disinfectant would have on the struggling hospital.
Brazil has the second-highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the world. In early August, the country surpassed 100,000 deaths due to COVID-19.
Since the first case emerged, one of the biggest concerns was whether the country’s healthcare system would be able to cope. Brazil has a public healthcare system, but it does not always have sufficient resources to cover the needs of all patients, especially in regions with the highest rates of poverty.
The pandemic has indeed overwhelmed the country and its public healthcare systems. Beyond that, it has exposed the inequalities in what is one of the most unequal countries in the world.
The Washington Post reports that patients treated in Brazil’s public hospitals are nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 than those treated in the country’s private healthcare system.
Mortality and transmission rates are up to three times higher amongst Brazil’s poorest when compared to more affluent populations. In public hospitals, patients report sharing oxygen masks in the hallways, as nurses fear treating them or even delivering their meals, due to the shortage of protective equipment.
It’s illustrative of the sobering reality we all know to some level: We’re not ‘all in this together’.
Marginalized populations, especially those living in extreme poverty around the world, are experiencing devastation due to the COVID-19 crisis at levels most Canadians would struggle to even imagine.
More: Hear a message from the National Director of Compassion Brazil, Vanessa Viotti.
Local Compassion staff know this devastation well. As they walk closely with families living in poverty through this pandemic, they see the immense strain it is putting on their communities.
That’s why Compassion decided to make a US$40,000 humanitarian aid donation to enable local hospitals to purchase desperately needed supplies, including personal protective equipment like masks, caps, gloves, gowns, goggles and hand sanitizer, and disinfectants like bleach, sodium hypochlorite and antiseptic.
It is a powerful way to love our neighbours in Brazil during these unprecedented times.
“I was able to listen closely to the report of hospital staff and see the challenges they are facing in this pandemic,” says Eliana. “The number of cases hasn’t stopped increasing in the region and hospitals are fighting to serve everyone, but it is complicated since they are short on supplies.”
Compassion Brazil conducted careful research and selected seven hospitals in the communities where Compassion works and where the number of COVID-19 cases are highest. Since Compassion works in the regions of Brazil with some of the highest rates of poverty, the chosen hospitals are some of the most under-equipped. The donations of supplies will have a life-saving impact on the communities where Compassion children and their families live.
“We are immensely grateful that we were chosen by Compassion. Our hospital has been instrumental in treating COVID-19 patients across our region, so medical supplies are essential to our work,” says Liliane Sena, the director of the hospital in Patos.
Rejane Moreira, the Municipal Health Secretary, shared similar sentiments. “The donations arrived at a very opportune moment, as our region has suffered a lot from the growing number of cases. We are grateful to Compassion for the donations.”
This crisis does not affect us all equally. But in response, we can choose to rise to the occasion together and love our neighbours well in these times. Even in the face of overwhelming need and inequality, our generosity won’t be stopped.
Poverty and inequality are exacerbating this crisis for the world’s most vulnerable. But we can rise as one to tell COVID-19: You won’t win.
Photography and field reporting by Sara Navarro