Via The Conversation (UK): Zika: what Brazil is doing to tackle the virus. Excerpt:
While Brazil showcases some of the underlying social, economic and political conditions that have allowed this outbreak to become such an urgent problem, this country is also taking steps in the right direction. These should not be dismissed as international actors step in.
In places like Pernambuco and Paraíba (two states that are among the poorest and most heavily affected by Zika), professionals from Brazil’s Unified Health System (SUS) are working alongside the military and community health agents who give advice and collect data in remote areas and hard-to-reach favelas. The work of these community workers is essential: mosquito control is more than simply fumigation “from above” and in order to be sustainable it requires persistent work on the ground.
In institutions such as the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, cutting-edge, publicly-funded research into Zika and other neglected tropical diseases is underway. Civil society has mobilised in “Sábados de Faxina” (Cleaning-up Saturdays) and even “anti-Zika” carnival parades. This is happening amid calls for a greater emphasis on improving sanitation as a long-term solution for Zika and other diseases affecting Brazil.
Despite the contested political terrain and the difficult circumstances, Brazil is showing how health workers, community representatives, researchers, civilian and military leaders can collaborate.
Brazil certainly needs the assistance of international partners, as is demonstrated by president Dilma Rousseff’s phone call to Barack Obama on January 29, in which she sought to further Brazil-US cooperation in vaccine development. But it would be a mistake to see Brazil as a helpless victim, needing to be saved by outside intervention.
There is much to learn from Brazil. First, considering the complex political, social and economic context of this country allows us to understand more clearly what the problem is. While the world is only now beginning to see Zika as an emergency, the conditions that have enabled the spread of the virus and hindered response are “everyday emergencies” for millions of Brazilians.
The second is that addressing the problem of Zika requires a long-term effort that goes beyond crisis management – and that should not stop at mosquito control and vaccine development. These responses will certainly be important, but a sustainable solution also requires addressing the social and economic determinants of health, improving sanitation and housing infrastructure, and involving civil society in the definition and implementation of policies.
Brazil has taken some important steps in this direction, and international actors should support this agenda rather than imposing their own.