CESE supports young people in their organized struggle against COVID-19 in the city of Salvador (Bahia)

Defend the lives of the people unconditionally. This is the principle of the campaign “Us for Us – the Periphery Alive to the fight against coronavirus”, which makes donations to families suffering the worst economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as providing care and the seeds of grassroots organization to the most vulnerable populations.  The initiative has national coverage, in Salvador it is coordinated by the Popular Youth Uprising (Levante Popular da Juventude: LPJ), and other urban and rural social movements in the state.

In the midst of the health and humanitarian crises afflicting the country, with more than 68 thousand lives lost, the city of Salvador has recorded a 1,200% growth in the disease, according to the State Health Department.  On 22 April, only 9 people in the region were infected with the new coronavirus, by the first of July this had risen to 818.  The disease has advanced significantly in the poorest neighbourhoods, where informal workers, with no legal backing to guarantee their rights, stay on the streets in order to maintain their livelihoods. One example of this can be seen in Cajazeiras 4 and 5, the neighbourhoods where the LPJ works.

According to Caroline Anice dos Santos, from the movement’s municipal and state coordinating team, solidarity between the poorest is essential, since this is a battle against an unknown virus that interferes with all our social dynamics, putting fundamental sections of society at risk: “In this context, the poorest suffer even greater inequality, because, on the one hand, it is hard to stay in social isolation, due to their need to work and access basics such as food and hygiene products, while on the other, poor neighbourhoods are always crowded and usually do not provide the necessary conditions for isolation,” asserted Caroline, who outlined the campaign’s overview: “The plan is to reach people before hunger and COVID arrive, because they don’t have the resources to stay in isolation without food on the table or basic social rights. The campaign grew out of this; its aim is to provide solidarity, to help people at a difficult time and create bonds of trust, for all the other battles we face on a daily basis.

While the vulnerability of the poor and black populations as well as those in city peripheries increases, CESE continues to support important initiatives such as this, which strengthens the Brazilian people and provides safe and reliable information about the pandemic and access to rights.  Jerônimo Bonfim, an LPJ member, explained how important this guidance is, given the Fake News empire, particularly during the pandemic, where erroneous information could literally kill people: “In the USA, for example, President Trump suggested that people drank detergent, and a few hours later people were being seen by emergency services.  Here in Brazil, “magical” recipes are circulating, supposedly capable of generating immunity, putting the population at even greater risk.  So, our activities to disseminate correct information are aimed at both combatting false information and reinforcing the truth, which other outlets also publish, so that when people aren’t sure, they have multiple sources indicating the correct procedure,” stated the young man who works in the Cajazeiras cell.

Solidarity makes even more sense when linked to the struggle for the guarantee of basic rights, which is why the initiative supported by CESE (through the Dutch cooperation agency Wild Geese), runs activities in “Raising awareness and the battle of ideas”, which combats fake news and discusses ideas, for “Donations”, collection and distribution to those in the neighbourhood, as well as in a third frontline, access to “Rights”. To this end, the Periphery Alive campaign has a Human Rights centre, a psychosocial network of lawyers, social workers and psychologists, both trained and students, to strengthen devices and tools for social assistance and the protection of rights.

Referring to this aspect, Elder Reis, from the LPJ’s municipal and state coordinating team, explained how the activity works: “By following up with families and in the organization’s campaign meetings in the territories and in monitoring by the Human Rights centre, we have managed to provide more services to cases that manifest demand in this regard, so we have constructed a follow-up process, in order to coordinate with and strengthen the public health and social security systems.  Currently, from all the families supported by the campaign, certain demands related to this psychosocial follow-up have emerged, from the reception and care system we have constructed to guidance about accessing the emergency aid, and so forth”.

According to this young man, so far approximately 24 tonnes of food have been distributed around eight locations in Salvador, with more than 200 people involved in logistics, collection, cleaning, distribution etc.  Moreover, the campaign has received online donations and constructed tools such as “Hands in Solidarity” – an initiative to distribute boxes among friends and activists from the network of bodies that constitutes the “Us for Us – the Periphery Alive” campaign, collecting food, and hygiene and cleaning products from condominiums and buildings in Salvador. “Our aim is to present the campaign to professionals, students, institutions, and to invite them to strengthen this immense cordon of solidarity and comradeship, putting forward practical tasks, but ones which present a low risk to health, so we can involve more people, while ensuring that crowds are avoided,” Elder noted.

Caroline explained the importance of CESE’s support at the beginning of the campaign: “CESE’s support was essential for providing a better, more organized kick-start to the campaign, to map the territory we wanted to cover and get an idea about the average number of families we could initially work with.  Having the financial support also enabled us to build other relationships with partners, signalling the need to involve an even greater number of people in the campaign (in dissemination, donations, work teams, proposals for new activities) so that the final impact could be amplified and we could reach a larger number of families in the Cajazeiras territory.”

Being a bridge between those who want to help and those who need help, these young people in Salvador are adding an active solidary dimension and moving forward with a stronger and better organized campaign of activities to confront the health, economic and political situation in our country. CESE believes in initiatives such as these, small and powerful projects, whose horizons include care, the guarantee of rights and the defence of democracy.

The campaign supported by CESE also relies on coalition with and support from other organizations such as the NGO Casa do Sol – Cajazeiras, the Small-scale Farmers’ Movement (Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores: MPA), the APUB Union, United Workers Central (Central Única dos Trabalhadores: CUT), the United Union of Oil, Petrochemical, Chemical and Plastic Workers (Sindicato Unificado dos Trabalhadores Petroleiros, Petroquímicos, Químicos e Plásticos: SINDIPETRO), the Adonai Baptist Church and the Brazilian Association of Jurists for Democracy (Associação Brasileira de Juristas pela Democracia: ABJD)

Address.: R. da Graça, 150. Graça, CEP: 40.150-055, Salvador-BA, Brasil.
Phone.: (71)2104-5457, Fax: (71)2104-5456, E-mail:
Working hours: 8am to 12 pm / 1pm to 5pm.

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