Why people in the Amazon die earlier than other Brazilians

Large distances and a lack of healthcare infrastructure meant the region’s residents already faced difficulties accessing services – and that was before the pandemic hit

Health center in the Amazon
Health center in the Amazon. Photo: BW Press/Shutterstock

At the peak of the first Covid-19 wave in Brazil, midway through 2020, the city of Manacapuru — in the northern state of Amazonas, in the heart of the Amazon rainforest — had the highest deaths per capita rate in the country. Manacapuru has no intensive care unit (ICU). The closest ones are found in Manaus, the state capital, 100 kilometers away. But it was undergoing its own coronavirus hell as its health system completely collapsed. 

The second-best options for an ICU bed were in Porto Velho, a 1,000-kilometer drive through the Amazon rainforest, or in Santarém, in the neighboring...

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