Brazil's COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted millions of individuals across the globe, leaving vulnerable populations with unequal access to resources. As of February 2023, Brazil has had 36 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. Brazil is a large country with various regions; however, some communities were more vulnerable than others during the pandemic. Brazil’s COVID-19 pandemic left the country with a better understanding of how some populations ended up more vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Living in Brazil’s Poverty During the Pandemic

The Brazilian Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) reported that those who live in working-class neighborhoods or “favelas” are more likely to contract infectious and contagious diseases. Favelas are overcrowded and contain millions of inhabitants. That is one reason why residents are more apt to contract airborne diseases. Furthermore, favela residents lack access to health care and sanitation. It’s also why Brazil’s COVID-19 pandemic hit residents in the most poverty-stricken favelas much harder than those in other neighborhoods.

AE: Brazil’s Financial COVID Response to Poverty-Stricken Families

As one response to COVID, Brazil’s federal government implemented Auxílio Emergency (Emergency Aid) (AE) to aid low-income families. When first launched, AE supported poverty-stricken families with a minimum of five $600 installments, and households led by single mothers received double that amount. Over time, the program lowered these benefits, this public relief aid received global recognition. In fact, Brazil ranked as having the fifth largest governmental response.

Violence Against Women

The World Bank reported increased risks of gender-based violence (GBV) within the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil. Calls to domestic violence helplines increased in Brazil. During the time of isolation and lockdown, femicides doubled. In 2020, Brazil had 1,350 recorded cases of femicide.  At the beginning of the pandemic, strict quarantine measures bolstered this increased violence. Later during the pandemic, job loss and financial instability contributed.

Combatting Violence Against Women

Luckily, Brazil already had services in place to combat violence against women. Signed into Brazilian law in 2006, the Maria da Penha Law provides women safety against domestic violence because any violence against a woman violates human rights. Forms of violence can include physical, psychological, sexual and patrimonial against women of any age. This law helps women find care and offers urgent protective measures. The law has assisted more than 3,364,000 since its initial signing in 2006.

Helplines and safe spaces further mitigate the threat of violent escalation. For example, one can report any situation of domestic violence to the Women’s Hotline (Central de Atendimento à Mulher).

Indigenous Populations and COVID-19

Brazil’s COVID-19 pandemic also disproportionately affected indigenous communities. Brazil is home to  896,917 indigenous persons in 305 ethnic groups. Mortality among indigenous populations was 6.5 times greater than in the rest of the population of Brazil during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the reason for this is that about a third of indigenous villages have access to clean water and sanitation. Access to hospitals is also worse for indigenous Brazilian communities. Additionally, indigenous people in Brazil face stigma and discrimination even when they can access health care services.

To combat symptoms of COVID-19 during the beginning of the pandemic, some indigenous populations such as the Xavante community turned to traditional medicine. United Nations Human Rights Senior Indigenous Fellow from Brazil and member of the Xavante people, Ro’otsitsina Juruna, reported, “Many indigenous people did not want to take the so-called Western medicines, so instead they began to take and practice more traditional medicine, through roots, teas and ablutions. I believe this strengthened our culture.”

As the pandemic continued, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) worked to provide indigenous populations with accessible and accurate information about prevention and care. It advocated for state governments to educate indigenous communities about how to seek help in case of symptoms. It also pushed for information about COVID prevention and treatment to be written in as many indigenous languages as possible and allow communities information about the virus to indigenous peoples in as many indigenous languages and formats (oral, written, child friendly).

Reflection on Brazil’s COVID-19 Pandemic

Because Brazil’s government and national and international humanitarian organizations have intervened to help these vulnerable groups, they have mitigated the harm done even in the most vulnerable populations. Further, Brazil’s COVID-19 pandemic response helped the country better understand the factors contributing to the vulnerabilities.

– Yv Maciel
Photo: Flickr

TikTokers Raise Awareness
The war in Ukraine continues months after the Russian invasion in February 2022. With no reconciliation in close sight, especially after recent Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian cities in early October 2022, humanitarian aid is urgent. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) estimated a civilian death toll of 6,430 by October 30, 2022. TikTokers within Ukraine are using the TikTok app to report on the events unfolding in Ukraine and document their experiences. Through this social media platform, TikTokers raise awareness about the Ukraine crisis and publicize calls for aid to Ukraine.

This type of news dissemination via short videos is gaining popularity among the younger generations not only because of the quick dissemination of news but because of the first-person accounts of the war and even the use of humor by Ukrainians on the ground.

First-person Accounts of War

Johnny Jen, a travel vlogger living in Ukraine during the Russian invasion, had some insight into using social media to show the effects of war. Jen told Insider that platforms like TikTok and YouTube have already begun to “replace traditional media and the news,” especially among the younger generation. A 2019 Reuters Institute study confirms this with a finding that individuals younger than 35 feel “traditional news media no longer seems as relevant or as dominant when it comes to news content” in comparison to social media.

University professor Damian Radcliffe also commented on this trend, telling Insider that the “informal feel” of these short videos tends to resonate as more “authentic and raw” to a younger audience.

Humor as a Coping Mechanism

The humor sprinkled into this type of content draws the attention of people using TikTok. Ukrainian Lisa Lysova has garnered a million views on a TikTok dance video she created after waking up to “sounds of explosions” when Russia invaded the nation. She says the use of humor is how she copes with the stress of the crisis.

Alina Volik, who is also a TikToker in Ukraine, says this humor helps Ukrainians “bond,” especially amid the war. She has 76,000 followers who watch her videos, which range from jokes that the Ukrainian president is the country’s “psychotherapist” and visiting empty stores in Ukraine as “entertainment.” This is a way for Ukrainians to relate to one another.

The Future of Social Media News Dissemination

With distrust in local media lurking over the past few years, these short videos are gaining attention. Survey results from Reach3 Insights show “three-quarters of Generation Z said TikTok has helped them to learn about social justice and politics, while the same number said the social video app helps them stay current on the news,” Marketing Dive reported.

While TikTokers raise awareness about the Ukraine crisis, countries are providing donations to support Ukrainians. On October 6, 2022, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced that the U.S. will provide $55 million worth of financial aid to support heating infrastructure in Ukraine as winter approaches. The USAID website says that “This assistance will support repairs and maintenance of pipes and other equipment necessary to deliver heating to homes, hospitals, schools and businesses across Ukraine.” From February 2022 to October 2022, the U.S. supplied $1.5 billion worth of humanitarian aid to people in Ukraine and surrounding countries.

Through TikTok, Ukrainian influencers are bringing attention to the issues impacting Ukraine, which could garner more foreign aid and help from humanitarian organizations.

– Marynette Holmes
Photo: Flickr