Updated: Jul 8, 2020
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 goes door-to-door distributing masks in Educandos, a crowded favela in the Brazilian city of Manaus, where it is estimated that 16,000 people live in precarious wooden homes perched on a hillside or stilts over a river filled with trash and sewer water.
“The situation is very delicate and precarious. People die 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.
According to Brazil’s statistics agency (IBGE), more than 50% of the city’s inhabitants live in inadequate housing.
Most of the homes in Educandos, built a mile from the centre of Manaus on a polluted tributary to the Rio Negro river, live without basic sanitation.
Father Alfredo and his church helpers do the rounds along narrow alleys of wooden planks, handing out masks or pushing them through portholes indoors to confined elderly couples. Some of the masks of blue and white cloth have also an image of the Virgin Mary stamped on them.
Manicurist Juliane Silva, who was wearing a mask made by the church, admits: “I stay home because I am afraid my children would get infected.”