Community health care agents – a job performed mostly by women are on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus in the Amazon.
CGTN followed a group of these professional in their daily rounds in the town of Manacaparu, the city with the highest coronavirus infection rate in the country. They check on residents and give out information on how to defend themselves from the virus.
“You know what to do, right Jessica? Just leave your home if absolutely necessary. Let this thing pass and take care of yourself,” agent Barbara Castro told one of the residents while handing out information leaflets.
“We work on prevention and orientation. We take important information to these homes that sometimes they don’t get from radio or television,” said Barbara Castro. “It’s important for these people. Many of them can’t read.”
In one of the houses in her neighborhood, nine out of ten family members tested positive for the virus. One family member refused to take the test. Social distancing is not easy in the crowded homes found here.
Suspected COVID-19 cases in Manacapuru are sent to a clinic assigned exclusively for such cases.
“I was feeling ill and I came to be tested, to find out if I caught the virus,” said pregnant homemaker Noriente de Souza. “I see that a lot of people are dying. My uncle died of this disease.”
However, the coronavirus is one more threat that these community health care agents have to deal with in the Brazilian Amazon. However, this is just another virus. These families have been exposed to many other diseases.
Yellow fever, malaria, dengue and zika are some the insect born diseases that need prevention measures in place to avoid an outbreak. Measles and the various types of influenza viruses – like H1N1 – are also recurring problems.
“Right now, our priority is to locate the people with coronavirus symptoms. The problem is that there are other jobs that community health care agents also have to do” said the coordinator of the area’s health agentes, Irani Viana. “Of course, we haven’t totally dropped them but the virus has certainly changed our routine.”
The state governor, Wilson Lima, admits that other diseases may create more trouble while the health care system is taking care of COVID-19. “Since we are focused on the COVID-19 issue, the attention given to other diseases ends up reduced so these increases the risk of death in the case of these other diseases”, said the governor.
Despite the severity of the coronavirus spread here, social distancing is far from effective in Manacapuru. The town is already having a hard time coping with the level of infections – and right now, the situation doesn’t seem to be getting.