Letter to the editor: Brazil’s policies threaten Quilombola communities and their lands amid the COVID-19 pandemic
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of people is not limited to health risks, but also to their livelihoods in nature, and consequently, to uses of ecosystems. In Brazil, among the different social groups, the quilombolas are even more threatened during the pandemic (Polidoro et al. 2020). Quilombolas are Afro-Brazilian descendants of slaves who fled slavery, and Brazilian legislation recognizes quilombola communities due to their forms of territorial occupation and use of nature according to their traditions, which are derived both from African ancestry and from traditions passed down from generation to generation (Leite 2015). The enslaved quilombola ancestors fled to the forest to create small settlements (called quilombos) as a strategy in their struggle for freedom. Over the centuries, they have maintained a harmonious relationship of respect and protection of nature, guaranteeing their survival in their own territories.
In times of pandemic, the Brazilian government’s actions are widely considered by the international community as negligent with respect to scientific guidelines to deal with COVID-19 (Polidoro et al. 2020). The effects of this negligence on quilombola communities have been tragic (Ortega and Orsini 2020), as attested by the lethality rate among the quilombolas (11.1%) being more than double the national average (4.9%) (Brasil de Fato 2020). In this context, there is an urgency to implement social policies that minimize the impacts of COVID-19 on quilombolas that safeguard not only the lives of these people, but also their connection with their land, and socio-environmental justice.
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