Five reasons why the world needs Brazil to pull through its political crisis

Nick Miroff – The Washington Post, 04/22/2016

If you caught a glimpse of last weekend’s impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff, you may have noticed that Brazil is going bonkers right now. There was spitting, shoving and confetti-shooting on the floor of parliament, which at times looked more like a Roman coliseum than a legislative chamber.

Rousseff lost the vote badly, setting up what is likely to be a protracted, bitter political battle to unseat her. She will be forced to step down temporarily if Brazil’s senate votes as soon as mid-May to go forward with the impeachment process, with hearings that could drag on for six months.

The country of 200 million people, by far the largest in Latin America, is increasingly polarized and entirely consumed with its political crisis. By no means is Brazil on the verge of collapse, but here are some reasons why the turmoil isn’t so good for the rest of us.

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Eradication of Zika-Spreading Mosquito in Brazil Unlikely

Peter Prengaman, Mauricio Savarese – AP, 04/19/2016

In the 1940s and 1950s, Brazilian authorities made such a ferocious assault on Aedes aegypti – the mosquito that spreads the Zika virus – that it was eradicated from Latin America’s largest country by 1958.

But Aedes aegypti returned, and now Brazil has launched another offensive against the pest, employing hundreds of thousands of troops to fumigate and educate people about how to eliminate its habitats. The assault is part of President Dilma Rousseff’s “war” on the Zika virus, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can cause devastating birth defects.

But eradication experts say there is little chance Brazil can come anywhere near stamping out the pest like it did a half century ago. The world is different, with globalization bringing more travelers and trade across borders. And Brazil is different; its resources are limited as the country suffers through its worst recession in decades and its president is focused on battling impeachment for allegedly breaking fiscal rules in managing government funds.

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Nobody is completely sure which mosquito spreads Zika in Brazil

Will Carless – Global Post, 04/06/2016

The World Health Organization’s fact sheet on the Zika virus contains a wealth of useful information about the mysterious disease that has spread across the Americas and is blamed for a surge in birth defects in Brazil.

 

One of its leading facts may sound pretty benign: Zika is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, mainly the Aedes aegypti species in tropical countries like this one.

There’s only one problem: It’s not actually a “fact” that this particular mosquito spreads Zika in Brazil.

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Zika virus command center leads biggest military operation in Brazil’s history

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 03/30/2016

It is the biggest military mobilisation in Brazil’s history: 220,000 army, navy and air force personnel have been called into action, as well as 315,000 public officials.

Rapid reaction units have been deployed to take the fight across the country. Local authorities are stockpiling munitions and supplies. Scientists have been enlisted to devise new weapons of mass destruction with which to defend the motherland.

But the enemy is not a geopolitical rival or a militant group: it is the tiny Aedes aegypti mosquito which is believed to be responsible for the spread of the Zika virus.

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Zika epidemic uncovers Brazil’s hidden birth-defect problem

Alex Cuadros – Washington Post, 03/01/2016

As researchers race to establish a link between the Zika virus and a birth defect known as microcephaly, one of their biggest obstacles is the lack of reliable health data in Brazil, where the epidemic broke out there last year.

Since October, Brazil’s Health Ministry has received reports of about 5,600 suspected cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads. Many cases have been thrown out, and many more are still being investigated, but given that the country previously reported 150 such cases per year, the number would still seem to indicate a massive jump.

Many doctors, though, say that the jump is largely illusory — based on massive underreporting of microcephaly and other birth defects in Brazil. What’s more, this poor record-keeping reflects much larger public health problems here: poor prenatal care and woefully inadequate services for children with disabilities. Until the Zika epidemic, these issues were mostly swept under the rug.

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How A Town In Brazil Reportedly Rid Itself Of The Zika Mosquito

Ana Beatriz Rosa, Anna Almendrala – The Huffington Post, 02/29/2016

Brazil has recently ramped up its fight against the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, the latter a virus that has been linked to birth defects. Brazil’s health minister Marcelo Castro announced in January that the country would send 200,000 members of the armed forces to help in mosquito eradication, and cities across the country have intensified strategies to combat the pest.

But a few communities in Brazil are already leading the way when it comes to eliminating the disease-carrying mosquito from their neighborhoods. One of these is the small town of Água Branca, home to 16,000 people in the state of Piauí.

Compared to other similarly sized rural towns in Brazil, Água Branca should have a mosquito problem. But in 2013, when Zika virus wasn’t even an issue, the town launched a community initiative to address rising dengue fever rates. The partnership between municipal health authorities and residents focused on eliminating mosquito hotspots, and as a result, Água Branca has reportedly been mosquito-free for three years.

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Pictures capture daily battle against Zika mosquitoes

Becky Little,  Tomás Munita- National Geographic, 02/25/2016

How do you stop disease-carrying mosquitoes from multiplying? That’s the question plaguing the Brazilian government, which has been sending army soldiers door to door on a mission to fight Zika—the virus suspected of causing microcephaly in infants born to infected mothers.

 

“They are giving leaflets saying you have to keep your backyard clean from rubbish,” says photographer Tomás Munita, who has been documenting Recife, a northeastern state capital with a population of 3.7 million. Any stray items left outside, even a bottle cap, can collect rainwater and become a breeding ground for the Aedes aegyptimosquitoes that are thought to be the main carriers of Zika.

But in Brazil’s favelas, or poor neighborhoods, Munita says it’s hard to imagine that the government’s information campaign will have much effect.