Spe­cial de­liv­ery

Pri­est gives out masks in Brazil­ian slum as deaths due to the coro­n­avirus mount

Calgary Herald - - WEEKEND LIFE - BRUNO KELLY

MANAUS, BRAZIL As the coro­n­avirus has spread rapidly in the poor­est parts of the Ama­zon’s big­gest city, a lo­cal pri­est has be­gun to make masks in his church and hand them out across his parish.

Fa­ther Al­fredo Ave­lar is go­ing door-to-door dis­tribut­ing masks in Ed­u­can­dos, a crowded favela in the Brazil­ian city of Manaus, where 16,000 peo­ple live in pre­car­i­ous wooden homes perched on a hill­side or on stilts over a river filled with trash and sewer wa­ter.

“The sit­u­a­tion is very del­i­cate. There are peo­ple dy­ing in their homes for lack of hos­pi­tal beds,” the 33-year-old pri­est said at his church in the parish of Our Lady of Per­pet­ual Help.

The hos­pi­tal sys­tem in Manaus has run out of in­ten­sive care units, while mount­ing deaths have forced the city ceme­tery to re­sort to col­lec­tive graves.

More than 50 per cent of the city’s in­hab­i­tants live in in­ad­e­quate hous­ing, ac­cord­ing to Brazil’s sta­tis­tics agency IBGE. Most of the homes in Ed­u­can­dos, built a mile from the cen­tre of Manaus on a pol­luted trib­u­tary to the Rio Ne­gro river, have no ba­sic san­i­ta­tion.

The pri­est and his church helpers do the rounds along nar­row al­leys of wooden planks, hand­ing out masks or push­ing them through port­holes in doors to con­fined el­derly cou­ples. Some of the masks of blue-and-white cloth have an im­age of the Vir­gin Mary stamped on them.

“I de­cided to stay home be­cause I was afraid my chil­dren would get in­fected,” said man­i­curist Ju­liane Silva, who was wear­ing a mask made by the church.

REUTERS

Catholic Church sem­i­nar­ian Re­nan Al­berto Lima de Oliveira de­liv­ers a pro­tec­tive mask to a res­i­dent in the Ed­u­can­dos slum in Manaus, Brazil, where deaths are mount­ing in the COVID-19 cri­sis.

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