Vaccine reaches descendants of runaway slaves as COVID-19 ravages Brazil

By Pilar Olivares MAGE, Brazil (Reuters) - A ray of hope reached a community descended from runaway slaves outside Rio de Janeiro this week as it received its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine after a long fight for recognition at a time when Brazil has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. The community in Mage, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Rio, is known as a 'quilombo,' a settlement founded by people who escaped from slavery and now inhabited by Brazilians of African heritage who maintain traditions stemming from their roots.

Reuters April 09, 2021 04:11:11 IST
Vaccine reaches descendants of runaway slaves as COVID-19 ravages Brazil

Vaccine reaches descendants of runaway slaves as COVID19 ravages Brazil

By Pilar Olivares

MAGE, Brazil (Reuters) - A ray of hope reached a community descended from runaway slaves outside Rio de Janeiro this week as it received its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine after a long fight for recognition at a time when Brazil has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

The community in Mage, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Rio, is known as a "quilombo," a settlement founded by people who escaped from slavery and now inhabited by Brazilians of African heritage who maintain traditions stemming from their roots.

"It was a constant, daily fight, without sleep," Ana Beatriz Bernardes Nunes, vice president of the Association of Quilombola Communities in Rio de Janeiro, said of the struggle to get the government to include the communities among priority groups for vaccination, alongside Brazil's indigenous peoples.

"Today, after many deaths, we are vaccinating our community," she added.

Under a thatched roof, by an open patch of grass used for religious ceremonies, a doctor drew vials from a cooler and inoculated the masked group that gathered.

Across Brazil there are over 3,000 quilombos, according to the Palmares Cultural Foundation, which promotes Afro-Brazilian history and culture. Brazil's vaccination plan estimates there are more than 1 million people living in these communities.

Brazil was the last place in the Americas to abolish slavery, eradicating it in 1888. By then, at least 4 million people had been taken from Africa and forced to work on sugar plantations and throughout the economy.

Most of their descendants in quilombos still live below the poverty line, with difficult access to healthcare, making them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

The latest COVID-19 wave driven by more contagious coronavirus variants is ravaging Brazil, with daily deaths exceeding 4,000 for the first time this week. The total death toll in Latin America's largest country has risen above 340,000 and may eventually pass the United States to become the world's highest, according to some experts.

President Jair Bolsonaro has opposed lockdowns, saying the cost to jobs is worse than the lives lost to the virus, but has recently come around to show more support for vaccines.

Brazil's mass vaccination program got off to a slow start after the country failed to move quickly to secure vaccine supplies. Less than 15% of the adult population has received a first dose.

The country has vaccinated about 12% of the priority population living in quilombos under the national immunization plan, according to the Health Ministry.

For Paulo Jose dos Reis, leader of the Mage quilombo, the vaccinations mean the worst might be over.

"It gives us hope that there are better days ahead," he said.

(Reporting by Pilar Olivares; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.