People in the poorest neighbourhoods have hardly any chance to protect themselves against the virus.

Hardly any protection for the poorest

In our project countries South Africa, Zimbabwe and Brazil the corona virus has long since arrived. Even in the minds of those in power, who ignored the danger for a long time. Decisive and drastic measures would now be important to prevent the worst from happening. After all, the health care systems will not be able to do so if the virus really breaks out. The poorest sections of the population can hardly protect themselves against the danger. Our partner organisations are now looking for ways to support young people.

While overseas thousands of people have already died of Covid-19 and the first deaths have also been reported in their own country, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro still spoke of a "minor flu". Everything was just hysteria and a media maneuver to get rid of him. Despite direct contact with demonstrably infected people he bathed in the crowd of his fans, had selfies made and distributed hugs. Now he also appears before the media with a protective mask.

It was the Brazilian Governors and the mayors who took the first stepsA curfew was imposed on the 40 million inhabitants of the province of São Paulo and freedom of movement was restricted in Rio de Janeiro. The last border with Uruguay was also closed only since Monday. But the disease has long since crossed the national border: in the meantime more than 2200 Covid-19 cases have already been registered47 people have died of it.

Health only for the rich
On the other side of the Atlantic, South Africa has taken drastic measures. Not only is there a ban on entering the country from crisis countries, but from 26 March there will be a three-week, nationwide curfew. In the meantime 709 Covid 19 cases but the number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher.

In Brazil like South Africa health systems are not prepared for a corona outbreak. Although the necessary equipment and infrastructure are in place, report the coordinators of terre des hommes schweiz for the two countries, but in far too small numbers. "It is likely that only the richer social classes will be served, while the poorer ones have no chance," says Annette Mokler, programme coordinator for Brazil. The Bolsonaro government had frozen all investment in the public health system after taking office. "This will save money that is broken. "The government is turning to private clinics instead." These services are prohibitively expensive for poorer segments of the population.

The situation in Zimbabwe is even worse. There, public hospitals lack the most basic infrastructure. "Even in normal conditions, there is a lack of medical equipment and nursing staff," reports Tayson Mudarikiri, coordinator for Zimbabwe and South Africa. "The country is not at all prepared for a pandemic."

Hygiene recommendation not feasible
The greatest concern in most countries in Africa and Latin America is the situation of the poorest population groups. In Brazil, the virus is already arrived in the densely populated favelas of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. There are six or more people living in a small hut without running water. Home office, social distancing or even simple frequent hand washing are not feasible in the poorer sections of the population. Even the 40 tankers sent into the favelas by the water supply of Rio de Janeiro do not help much: 1.5 million people live in these areas.

What the favelas are in Brazil, the townships are in South Africa and Zimbabwe. "But even in Zimbabwe's middle-class residential areas, the water supply sometimes fails for months at a time," says Tayson Mudarikiri. "In the poorer neighborhoods, no water has come out of the tap for years." Disinfectants are not affordable for most people, because "many people have trouble even just buying food or public transport," says Tayson Mudarikiri, describing the situation. As a result, the poorest people can hardly protect themselves against the virus.

Creative solutions in demand
The overall picture of the situation in our project countries is still emerging. "We are in constant contact with our coordination offices and with the local partner organisations," says Gabriela Wichser, Head of Programmes and member of the Executive Board. Employees and partners must also obtain their own information. "Unfortunately, we cannot rely solely on official information from the governments of those countries."

The partner organisations in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Brazil still have to orient themselves in the new situation. Many questions remain open, for example whether and in what form the activities with the young people can be continued. The fact that most of the offices have been closed and converted to home offices does not currently make this task any easier. "Our partners in South Africa and Zimbabwe are now looking for ways to contribute to Covid-19 prevention," says Tayson Mudarikiri.

In the northeast of Brazil the partner organisations are looking for creative solutions for the young farmers from their projects. The virus hasn't gotten there yet. But if the weekly markets were to be closed, their main source of income would be lost. The young people have no savings or social networks to bridge the shortfalls. "Our partner organisations are now considering with the farmers whether there is an alternative to the markets", says Annette Mokler, "for example, door-to-door deliveries". The solution has not yet been found.

Every day the number of cases increases, the crisis spreads and new protective measures come into effect every day. terre des hommes schweiz and its partner organisations do everything in their power to support young people and their environment. However, the poorest in particular are in great danger: they can hardly protect themselves against the corona virus, cannot afford health care and the people in the slums are usually not a priority for governments.


terre des hommes schweiz has set up a fund to provide rapid assistance in the project countries. Help to bring soap, water and information to the poorest regions so that the people there can protect themselves. We thank you for your donation! 


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