Projeto do Instituto de Saúde Coletiva da UFBA oferece orientações e kits de higiene para pessoas em situação de rua / Foto: divulgação

The effects of the new coronavirus and actions aimed at combating the covid-19 pandemic led important debates at the UFBA 2020 Virtual Congress. One of the most recurring issues in the discussions was the deepening of social vulnerabilities in different contexts, from unequal access to health services. health among municipalities to measures that accentuate discrimination in certain layers of the Brazilian population.

At the opening, the pandemic was the theme of the session “ Brazil in the 21st century: knowledge and public policies to face Covid-19 ”, which was attended by the president of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), Nísia Trindade, and teachers Eduardo Mota and Glória Teixeira, from the Collective Health Institute (ISC / UFBA).

The panel highlighted the different impacts caused by the pandemic in the municipalities, especially those located in the northern region of Brazil, and the reflection of social vulnerabilities for the population’s health. “There are municipalities in which people need to travel, on average, 240 kilometers to reach the hospital and have access to an ICU bed,” noted Nísia Trindade.

According to the president of Fiocruz, there is a need for greater integration between the surveillance system and primary health care, with more effective action by community health agents in this process. She also drew attention to the actions taken by the Brazilian states, such as restrictions on agglomerations, and the importance of social isolation to contain the advance of the pandemic. “Scientific knowledge shows us that, in the absence of vaccines and proven effective drugs, these are the measures that have shown the best result”.

In a debate with Trindade, the professor epidemiologist at the Collective Health Institute (ISC) at UFBA Eduardo Mota pointed out the need for more investments in the areas of health and education. He criticized the process of de-financing the Unified Health System (SUS) and public educational institutions in recent years. “Our teaching and research institutions are responsible for producing knowledge and innovation in this country, something that is absolutely essential at a time like this”, he observed.

For ISC epidemiologist and researcher Glória Teixeira, in addition to strengthening the SUS, the pandemic also opens up an opportunity to discuss universal systems in all countries of the world. “The pandemic is bringing up the problem of inequality, and I hope that Brazilian society and humanity will see these examples for the construction of a world that is less unequal and more in favor of the population”.

Health workers

In Brazil, about 3.5 million health workers work in the provision of services, from primary care to specialized and hospital services in the public and private network. During the pandemic, the role of these professionals gained prominence, not only for the importance, but also for the vulnerability to which they are exposed.

The subject was the theme of the table “ Health workers in the context of a pandemic ”, presented by researchers from the CoVida – Science, Information and Solidarity Network, a joint initiative of UFBA and Cidacs / Fiocruz, with a focus on Covid-19. “While the majority of the population is in social isolation, these workers are at the front line with risks,” said Isabela Cardoso, director of ISC and a member of the network.

The session warned of a scenario of inequality even among health workers, mainly for nursing professionals, because of the technical and social division of labor. According to the Federal Nursing Council (Cofen), 85.1% of these workers are women; of these, 53% are black. And they are the most exposed to the risks of contamination.

“These professionals are subjected to long working hours and greater physical and mental fatigue, which can lead to errors, including hand washing and proper use of PPE,” observed Ednir Assis Souza, professor at the School of Nursing at UFBA.

The panel also counted on the participation of professor Catharina Matos and researcher Erick Lisboa, both from ISC, who presented actions and proposals for health workers to face the pandemic.

Indigenous population

The advance of Covid-19 has also highlighted the vulnerability of indigenous people in Brazil. According to the epidemiological bulletin of the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai), released on Saturday (23), there are 760 confirmed cases and 35 deaths in the country until the last update. The living conditions of these populations were discussed at the table “ Covid-19 and indigenous peoples: legal impasses, institutional attacks and forms of collective confrontation ”, presented by leaders of the Tuxá peoples (Rodelas – BA), Xucuru-Kariri (Palmeira dos Índios – AL), Tapeba (Caucaia – CE) and Pankararu (Tacaratu, Petrolândia and Jatobá – PE).

During the session, they criticized the actions of the federal government and the administrative measures adopted by the Ministry of Health. “The model brought to contain the pandemic in our territories is the same as in urban centers. These are actions that violate the rights and basic principles of indigenous peoples ”, observed Maynamy José Santana, representative of the Xucuru-Kariri. The discussion also addressed issues such as difficulties in managing emergency aid and the rampant increase in food prices in cities close to the villages.

For the lawyer and activist Weibe Tapeba, the vulnerability of the people who do not have demarcated land is even more accentuated due to the proximity to the municipalities and, therefore, to the greater contact with external social groups. “The indigenous peoples who have already presented cases of notification and deaths are, precisely, in communities with greater fragility in relation to the management of the territory”, he emphasized.

The executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib), Dinamam Tuxá, also called for more speed in approving Bill 1142/20, which contains emergency measures to assist indigenous and quilombola peoples during the pandemic, as well as withdrawal of the article authorizing missionaries to remain in isolated Indian territories. “We want the changes presented by the government to be excluded and we defend the return of the project to the model that was built in a democratic way”.

Other discussions on the indigenous theme were also highlighted at the tables “ Indigenous peoples and challenges facing the covid-19 ”, “ Epidemiology, culture and health of the black and indigenous populations ” and “ Covid-19 and health of the indigenous peoples: emergencies in health indigenous communities in Bahia ”.


According to the National Coordination of Articulation of Black Rural Quilombola Communities (CONAQ, Brazil has about 6 thousand remaining quilombo communities, which represents a contingent of 16 million people. The social and epidemiological vulnerability of these populations in facing the pandemic was the discussion topic of the table ” Vulnerabilities: quilombola populations in the North and Northeast of Brazil in the face of the covid-19 pandemic “, presented by professors Hilton Silva (UFPA), Edna Araújo (Uefs) and Leny Trad (ISC / UFBA), with mediation researcher Alder Mourão (UFPA).

The researchers highlighted the context of extreme poverty in the communities, such as high rates of unemployment, absence of minimum sanitation conditions and, mainly, the difficulty of accessing health services. According to Professor Edna Araújo, these are old problems that are aggravated in a scenario of health crisis. “This pandemic refers to a disease that is highly serious, requiring ICU, and the cities that are closest to these quilombola communities generally have a very limited service structure,” he evaluated.

Professor Hilton Silva also warned of the number of Covid-19 cases in quilombos in Pará and the lack of necessary follow-up. “We have already counted 12 deaths in quilombola areas in the state and more than 160 suspicions that do not have medical assistance to date”. He also criticized the lack of specific actions to contain and control the pandemic among quilombola populations across the country.

For Professor Leny Trad, the situation requires public policies that recognize the remaining quilombo communities and are willing to listen to the direct demands of these populations. “We need to think about ways to face vulnerability both in the context of this pandemic and beyond, in a perspective that is not authoritarian, that we will take the answers and solutions”.

The quilombola theme was also present at the tables “SUS, the work of social workers in health and quilombola communities in the context of the pandemic / covid-19” and “Interinstitutional research in focus: quilombola communities at risk”.

Street population

“Stigmas are very violent and indifference is what makes us suffer the most”. The outburst is by Renata Santos, state coordinator of the Movement of Population in Street Situation, and one of the guests at the table “ We are not invisible: the right to health of the homeless population before, during and after covid-19 ”.

The session discussed experiences of social collectives, the performance of the university and the search for more inclusive public policies, with the participation of professors Joilda Nery (ISC / UFBA), Cleber Cremonese (ISC / UFBA), nutritionist Osiyalle Rodrigues and Tricia Calmon , coordinator of the “Corra para o Abraço” program, of the Secretariat of Justice, Human Rights and Social Development of the State of Bahia (SJDHDS).

A survey by the Axé Project, carried out in partnership with UFBA and other institutions, points out that the number of people on the street can reach 17 thousand in Salvador. And it is in this scenario of marginalization and pandemic that “Nós nas Ruas” was created, a project that has already distributed more than 2,500 hygiene and food kits to people on the streets. The action is developed in the city by teachers and students from ISC / UFBA, with the support of the Movement of Population in Street Situation, the program “Run to the Hug” and the State University of Bahia (Uneb).

In addition to donations, guidelines and health training activities are carried out for professionals working in the care of this population. “While the government does not arrive, we seek to provide minimum conditions for these people to be able to prevent themselves against Covid-19 in a completely adverse context, which is the street scene”, highlighted Professor Joilda Nery, creator of the campaign.

Black youth

Give a voice to young blacks and share experiences about actions developed in their own communities during the pandemic. This was the purpose of the recorded table “ Black youth and covid-19: proposals for direct actions to combat the socio-racial effects of the crisis ”. The session was presented by members of Prosseguir, an affirmative action program coordinated by the Center for the Study of Labor Relations and Inequalities (CEERT) in partnership with UFBA.

“How are we going to talk about social distance in two- or three-room houses where up to eight people live? They live in conglomerates, sharing the same bathrooms, without water to wash their hands and without money to feed themselves, ”said Thayana Victória Silva, a medical student at Uneb, during the discussion.

Among the initiatives shown by the group, is the campaign led by Tasciano Santos Solari, a Geography student at the Federal Institute of Bahia (IFBA), who distributes food and hygiene kits to residents of the Massaranduba region, in Salvador. “The pandemic helped to open up what the government has never done for society in relation to public health, education and food,” he says. The action also included the delivery of fabric masks made by members of the community itself.

For Ariana Silva (UFBA), master in Interdisciplinary Studies on Women (Neim / UFBA), the initiatives start from the understanding of how social inequalities are deepened by racism and the impact that this brings on the lives of black and poor people, especially in crisis periods, such as the current pandemic. “These are actions that help in the basics, but without the basics, we cannot take a bigger step”.

Other discussions on the theme of the black population gained space in various activities of the UFBA 2020 Congress, such as the tables “ Black neighborhoods, racism and pandemic of the covid-19 ”, “ Black women, racism and health ” and “ The lethality of racism: black people and the covid-19 pandemic ”.