Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 29th March, 2008
Insect repellent is flying off the shelves of supermarkets across the state of Ceará. There’s been an alarming rise in the number of cases of dengue fever here, now more than four thousand. The fact that this potentially fatal mosquito-borne virus has already claimed victims down in Rio de Janeiro has made the international news. But few abroad know or particularly care about what happens in this remote corner of Brazil. Children are particularly vulnerable, but there are also many feeble malnourished poor people here, who eke out a living begging or sifting through rubbish bins. The first time I came to Ceará, during the military dictatorship, people were literally dying of starvation duiring a drought in the interior. But the government of the period refused to make the disaster public, as it thought that would hurt the country’s image abroad. Moreover, in the eyes of many middle class Brazilians in Rio, São Paulo and other southern cities, still today the dispossessed of the north-east are almost like another species.