As the largest nation in South America and also one of the poorest, Brazil remains vulnerable to the health and socioeconomic implications of COVID-19. With 55 million of it’s 210 million citizens living in poverty and 85% living in urban areas, international support for Brazil’s COVID-19 response is particularly important. In just four months, nearly 2 million people contracted the disease, resulting in over 72,000 deaths.
The proportion of Brazilians covered by family health teams increased from 17.4% in 2000 to 63.7% in 2015. However, the low doctor-to-patient ratio of only 0.02% and the stagnant 8.4% expenditure of the GDP on healthcare contribute to many Brazilians lacking access to treatment. This issue has only been exacerbated by the additional strain the pandemic has placed on the healthcare system. As of July 15, the U.S. Department of State and USAID have directed $1.5 billion towards the global COVID-19 response. Of that, USAID is supporting Brazil’s COVID-19 response with $12.5 million.
How USAID is Supporting Brazil’s COVID-19 Response
- Ventilators: In May, the U.S. committed to delivering 1,000 ventilators to the people of Brazil. These machines, ranging in price from $5,000 to $50,000, will save Brazil millions of dollars in healthcare-related equipment expenditures as the spread of COVID-19 continues. The novel virus attacks the body’s respiratory system, often causing difficulty breathing or respiratory failure. USAID is improving Brazil’s COVID-19 response with these life-saving machines. The aid will ensure that hospitals do not turn away patients due to a shortage of medical supplies.While ventilators do not stop the spread of COVID-19, they are helping some of the sickest Brazilian patients recover. A New England Journal of Medicine study found that 50% of COVID-19 patients who require a ventilator eventually die from the disease. However, patients spend an average of 10 days on a ventilator. This means that if 1,000 new ventilators are available in Brazil, in three months of use, 4,500 people who would have died without a ventilator will likely survive.
- Hygiene and Sanitization: By May, the CDC had provided $3 million in Brazilian COVID-19 response funding. The funds are used to improve data collection in order to identify cases, contact trace and pinpoint areas of high transmission rates. On May 29, when new cases were steadily increasing, USAID announced it would provide $6 million in assistance to Brazil. Part of this funding was directed towards improved sanitation and hygiene in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Brazil is now able to better distribute government-subsidized masks, hand sanitizer and other hygiene-related materials. As a result, the country has more effectively controlled the spread of COVID-19 and has not experienced a record high daily case influx since June.
- Food and Water: In March, Brazil’s unemployment rate rose to 12.6% from an average of 12% in 2019. The jump left approximately 5 million more Brazilians unemployed at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. With the heightened financial crisis, many of the 38 million once-employed Brazilians lost their jobs and in turn lost the purchasing power to feed their families. As part of the United States’ July commitment to provide $1.5 billion in foreign aid relief for COVID-19, $20 million has been directed towards food and water aid. It is uncertain how much of the money will fund hunger relief within Brazil’s COVID-19 response. Nevertheless, the United States’ step to dedicate funding for food and water provides some hope for Brazilians facing hunger.
- Refugee and Vulnerable Populations: In addition to the growing prevalence of poverty and unemployment in Brazil, the estimated 253,500 Venezuelan migrants and refugees within Brazil are struggling. Fortunately, these Venezuelans, who flooded Brazil at the highest rate in South America, have access to hospital treatment. Though, a lack of financial opportunity during COVID-19 has created disproportionate homelessness and hunger for the refugees. In response, USAID is providing over $12.4 million to support two NGOs in Brazil. These NGOs provide emergency shelter, food and nutritional assistance exclusively to vulnerable populations within Brazil. Such populations include low-income and rural residents in the Amazonian region and Venezuelan migrants.
- Grants and Incentives for the Private Sector: USAID is also improving Brazil’s COVID-19 response by creating incentives for private sector involvement. In May, $75,000 in grants were issued to former Brazilian USG exchange program participants to fund 40 COVID-19 relief projects. These grassroots projects work to educate Brazilian communities about the pandemic. The efforts dispel misinformation about the virus and address the socioeconomic implications of it, such as increased rates of domestic violence during the quarantine. USAID has mobilized a small population of the private sector in Brazil, strengthening the effects of the over $40 million in Brazilian COVID-19 relief derived from the United States’ domestic private sector.
USAID, along with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State, is improving Brazil’s COVID-19 response by financially prioritizing medical intervention, mitigation efforts, humanitarian aid and education regarding the virus. Although COVID-19 remains an issue, the nation is better equipped with tools to slow the spread of the virus and handle any negative effects of it.
– Caledonia Strelow