Brazil has become one of the epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic. The failure of President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration to recognise the severity of the pandemic is being compounded by the neglect of Brazil’s community health workers (CHWs). In Brazil, there have been no nationwide guidelines for primary health care services in the COVID-19 response. Since CHWs in Brazil are not considered to be health professionals, only an estimated 9% have received infection control training and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Unions estimate that at least 50 CHWs have died as a result of COVID-19. The number is likely to be vastly underestimated, since deaths of CHWs are not registered in Brazil’s official statistics of health-care worker mortality. Moreover, CHWs have faced threats and aggression in some territories where they work. We call on the Brazilian Government and the global health community to recognise and support the role of CHWs in the COVID-19 response and to ensure their health and safety.
Gabriela Lotta, Clare Wenham, João Nunes and Denise Nacif Pimenta (2020) Community health workers reveal COVID-19 disaster in Brazil, The Lancet, Published online July 10, 2020 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31521-X