The riverside communities of the Manaus, in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon, they complain of state abandonment and fight against the coronavirus pandemic with alternating doses of faith in God and jungle concoctions.
Raimundo Leite de Sousa, 34, ensures that he has recovered from covid-19, which has already killed more than 210,000 people in Brazil, thanks to jatobá or andiroba syrups, complemented with lemon and garlic.
The disease “bent me but it did not take me,” declares this resident of Bela Vista do Jaraqui, an hour by boat from Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas confronted with a virulent second wave of the pandemic.
Bela Vista do Jaraqui, which offers a spectacular panorama over the Río Negro under a sky between blue and gold, is home to 112 families who live in wooden houses, which are reached by dirt roads.
When you get off the boat, it is impossible to imagine the extension of the village, hidden by the walls of trees. At the entrance, there is an Adventist church.
The closest health post is in another community, a 25-minute walk or ten by boat.
“Despite the fact that many lost their relatives, I am content because I trust that God is the best,” says Silvio de Melo, who participated in an RT-PCR test operation for covid-19 carried out on Monday by the municipality of Manaus with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Inhabitants of a town in the Brazilian Amazon, near Manaus, receive assistance from the International Organization for Migration to get tested for coronavirus. Photo: AFP
Erasmo Morales, 55, affirms that “covid-19 is the most serious problem in Amazonas” but he is not worried, because “God takes care of everyone and if (death) has to happen, there is no way to save it.”
All the inhabitants wear chinstraps, even the children. Neighbors say there was only one test operation, thanks to donations. Monday’s was carried out with 45 people, who will know within 5 to 7 days if they were contaminated.
More than half of the community has never taken a test, almost a year after the arrival of the disease in Brazil and in one of the states most affected by the pandemic, origin in addition to a variant that would partly explain the virulence of the second wave.
“I am disappointed, the governor could have done more, they are lives,” says Jardei Santos, 35, who believes he has covid-19 due to nausea and a headache.
While waiting her turn, sitting on a wooden bench, Santos says she fears for her and her family. “Now I am more worried than last year because I see more people infected, but we have to pray, God does not give up.”
In the community, life is spent outdoors. People fish and farm. Going to and from the river takes a good part of the time.
Raimundo de Sousa assures that nature has saved the riparians and contrasts the abundance of oxygen in the jungle with the shortage of this element in the Manaus hospitals, which led many patients to die asphyxiated.
“All the fight in the city, for that oxygen we have here,” he says.
Sousa attributes the humanitarian disaster from Manaus to “a very serious failure of administration.”
“If I do not know how much fuel I need to get to Manaus by boat, I stay halfway, because I am a bad administrator,” he explains, and sentences: “We feel that we are being killed by that bad administration.”
Employees of a funeral home carry a person killed by coronavirus from a hospital in Manaus, in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. Photo: Bloomberg
The community has internet and communicates thanks to a WhatsApp group. When someone reports severe symptoms, they are transferred to a “ambulancha” to a medical post. They have five, which were donated to serve 700 families scattered in 15 communities.
But De Sousa believes that in Manaus, without nature there is nothing to do. “The ten patients who were transferred to Manaus died,” he exemplifies. One of them was his uncle, 53 years old.
Unaware of the test operation, in front of his house, Francisco Morales adjusts a corn grinder. A fishing net delimits the space, simulating a fence.
He sees covid-19 as a threat but at 70 he says, like his neighbors, to rely on faith and home remedies, personalizing his formula with a morning drink of cachaça.