This article was initially published in Portuguese and translated into Spanish by our Brazilian partner Agencia Publica. It was then republished and edited by Global Voices with his permission.
The number of black people who have died from COVID-19 in Brazil has multiplied by five in two weeks in April. From April 11 to 26, the deaths of black patients confirmed by the Federal Government went from just over 180 to over 930. In addition, the number of black Brazilians hospitalized for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) caused by the coronavirus increased 5.5 times.
The increase in deaths of white patients was much smaller: in the same two weeks, the number increased by a little more than triple, and the number of hospitalized white Brazilians increased in a similar proportion.
In early June, in Brazil, the number of deaths from coronavirus has increased to 32,568. Since the beginning of the pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro has minimized the effects of COVID-19 and has highlighted the importance of leaving the economy open. Quarantines were applied according to regional rulers. Today the country has the second highest number of cases in the world.
The large increase in cases of blacks hospitalized or killed by COVID-19 has evidenced racial inequalities in Brazil: in the black population, one in three hospitalized dies of SARS caused by the coronavirus; while in the white population one out of every 4.4 hospitalized dies.
These data have been extracted from an analysis carried out by Public based on epidemiological bulletins of the Ministry of Health that contain information on race and color in hospitalizations and deaths due to coronavirus. The Federal Government released these updated figures on April 26.
For every death in Moema, four die in Brasilândia
São Paulo, the largest city in the country and with the highest number of deaths from COVID-19, has the highest number of deaths from the disease in the neighborhoods where the black population is most concentrated. According to Pública, of the ten neighborhoods with the highest absolute number of deaths caused by the coronavirus, eight have more blacks than the São Paulo average.
The neighborhood with the highest absolute number of deaths is Brasilândia, with 103 cases. The black population in that region is around 50% (the average in São Paulo is 37%). At the opposite extreme, the city's least black neighborhood, Moema, had 26 deaths. The average number of blacks in that region is less than 6%.
Even if we adjust deaths to the number of inhabitants, the two neighborhoods have different realities: compared to the number of inhabitants in Moema, Brasilândia has approximately 25% more deaths. Public Agency used the data from the last Census (2010) to calculate the population and race / color of its inhabitants.
In suburban neighborhoods with more black inhabitants than the average in São Paulo, COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed, and with them, deaths. In Jardim Ângela, the neighborhood with the highest percentage of blacks in the entire city, deaths from coronavirus nearly tripled in approximately two weeks. In neighborhoods with a majority of black population, such as Grajaú, Parelheiros, Itaim Paulista, Jardim Helena, Capão Redondo and Pedreira, COVID-19 deaths more than doubled during the same period.
The spread of coronavirus in the suburbs of São Paulo slowed down in the wealthier neighborhoods, where the first cases of COVID-19 appeared. On April 17, neighborhoods with fewer black populations than the city average had 13% more deaths than regions where more blacks live. Two weeks later, that difference fell to 3%. If the trend continues, death in neighborhoods where more blacks live than the average in the city will exceed that of neighborhoods where fewer blacks live.
The places where blacks live are precisely those with the lowest Municipal Human Development Index (MHDI). The ten neighborhoods with the worst IDHM in São Paulo are where more blacks live than the city average. The ten neighborhoods with the best MHDI are where fewer blacks live than the average. In the ten neighborhoods with the highest absolute number of deaths, eight have an MHDI considered average, below 0.8. It is precisely in these eight neighborhoods that the average number of black inhabitants is above the city average.
In Rio, the neighborhoods where more blacks live than the city average already accumulate more deaths
In Rio, neighborhoods with more blacks than the city average already have more deaths in absolute numbers than neighborhoods with fewer blacks.
The increase in cases in the suburbs and slums has led these areas to record more and more deaths. Currently, Campo Grande, with more than 50% of black inhabitants, is the neighborhood with the most deaths. The region surpassed Copacabana, which was previously the place with the highest absolute number of deaths from COVID-19. After Copacabana, Bangu and Realengo, two neighborhoods with a majority of black populations rank third and fourth with the most deaths in the city.
In Rocinha, the largest slum in the city, there were nine deaths according to official data at the time of the investigation. Doctors serving in that community questioned the number, noting that there have already been 22 deaths in the favela.
The relationship between the number of confirmed cases and deaths is also quite different between the wealthy and poor neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, which may indicate difficulties for residents of favelas and suburbs to be screened. In Rocinha, for example, there are more than twice as many deaths in confirmed cases than in Leblon. The neighborhoods with the most confirmed cases are Copacabana and Barra da Tijuca.
In the Amazon, whites survive longer than blacks
In the Amazon, where the public health system has collapsed, black deaths are more frequent than white deaths among people who develop severe COVID-19 conditions. According to Public, one black dies for every 2.4 cases in serious condition and, among whites, there is one death for every 3.2 seriously ill patients.
The state of Amazonas, which was the first to reach the maximum capacity of intensive care units for patients with COVID-19, has registered a more significant increase among blacks in serious condition than among whites. In late April, in less than a week, the number of seriously ill black patients doubled.
The absolute majority of deaths in the Amazons are of black people: more than 13 blacks died for every white death. The health department had registered some 850 seriously ill black patients and more than 340 deaths. Among whites, there were 81 severe cases and 25 deaths. The race and color data was updated on April 29.
Despite data from the Ministry of Health showing that there was a greater increase in deaths in neighborhoods with more black populations and that there were more deaths among hospitalized patients, the Federal Government does not reveal direct details about this information. For example, there is no information on how many cases were confirmed by race / color, nor on the number of tests done in black, white, and other groups.
The lack of official data on race is historic in the country, says lawyer Daniel Teixeira, director of the Center for Studies on Labor Relations and Inequalities (Ceert), a non-governmental organization focused on promoting racial and gender equality.
“There are several factors that can explain this high lethality (of COVID-19 among the black population). Precisely, having more information means that we can even confirm or exclude the importance or relevance of each of these factors, as the case may be. This is where the importance of data lies ”, defends Teixeira. The researcher considers that the gap does not only occur in the health area and that this is common in the country. “The lack of this type of data could prevent people from having public policies that take into account this situation that, historically, ignores the dimensions of structural inequalities in Brazil,” says Teixeira.
Report originally published by Agência Pública