Story at a glance

  • COVID-19 has killed more than 1,000 children in Brazil since the pandemic began, despite evidence suggesting the disease is far less lethal in children than in adults.
  • Brazil’s Health Ministry data suggests 852 children younger than 9 have died from COVID-19, but experts believe the number could be higher due to underreporting.
  • "We have a serious problem detecting cases. We don't have enough tests for the general population, even fewer for children.”

COVID-19 has killed more than 1,000 children in Brazil since the pandemic began, despite evidence suggesting the disease is far less lethal in children than in adults. 

The BBC first reported that Brazil’s Health Ministry data suggests 852 children younger than 9 have died from COVID-19, but experts believe the number could be higher due to underreporting. 

Fatima Marinho, an epidemiologist at the University of São Paolo, estimates that more than 2,000 children under nine have lost their lives to COVID-19. She told the BBC part of the disparity in the data could be due in large part to a lack of testing, and said the death toll could be exacerbated by delays in treatment. 

"We have a serious problem detecting cases. We don't have enough tests for the general population, even fewer for children. Because there is a delay in the diagnosis, there is a delay in care for the child," Marinho said. 


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Poverty also plays a role, Braian Sousa from the São Paolo School of Medicine told the BBC. Sousa led a study of nearly 6,000 individuals under the age of 20 who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. He found socioeconomic welfare to be among other prominent comorbidities. Marinho told the BBC she also sees the link, adding crowded housing is a huge risk factor. 

"Most vulnerable are black children, and those from very poor families, as they have the most difficulty accessing help. These are the children most at risk of death," Marinho added. 

Doctors Without Borders President Christos Christou told reporters that the” failed response in Brazil has caused a humanitarian catastrophe,” NBC reported

"Each week there is a grim new record of deaths and infections — the hospitals are overflowing, and yet there is still no coordinated centralized response," Christou said. 

Christou added that the government, led by Jair Bolsonaro, has failed to listen to science and review the data to make informed decisions about COVID-19 prevention. 

"Their refusal to adapt evidence-based public health measures has sent far too many to an early grave,” Christou said. “The response in Brazil needs an urgent, science-based and well-coordinated reset to prevent further avoidable deaths and the destruction of the once prestigious Brazilian health system."

There have been more than 360,000 COVID-19 deaths in Brazil, according to data from the World Health Organization


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Published on Apr 16, 2021