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30 Sep 2019

Health centres in parts of Brazil have been inundated with patients seeking help for respiratory problems, as fires continue to ravage the Amazon rainforest.

Toxic smoke clouds have covered numerous cities, towns and villages in the massive South American country.

Northern states of Acre and Rondônia are particularly affected.

Rondônia’s capital city Porto Velho has been reportedly hit hard, with three times the average number of children being treated for breathing difficulties there.

Locals have described the haze caused by fires, which have been running wild since August, as the worst ever because they are actually seeing what they are breathing in.

In the first three weeks of August, more than 400 children were admitted to the city’s children’s hospital with respiratory problems.

The Washington Post has quoted a number of parents fearing for their children’s health.

“It’s a crime,” one mother said.

“A complete lack of respect for the population as a whole, but especially with the children.”

Elderly are also suffering due to the smoke.

Across Acre, about 50,000 cases of respiratory sicknesses have been recorded.

Health experts are saying that a single day’s exposure to the smoke-filled environment can have an adverse impact on health.

Asthma and bronchitis are naturally exacerbated by the smoke.

But doctors are warning that prolonged exposure to the pollution could enhance the risk of cancer.

Pulmonologist Marcos Abdo Arbex is quoted by the Post as saying: “You cannot put a price tag on the suffering that individuals will experience. But there is also a rise in costs for people and the government. If there is a huge increase in emergency room visits and hospitalisations, serving that population will be more costly.”

Hospitals and other health centres are struggling with the sheer number of people seeking medical attention, with some desperately trying to find more staff to cope with the demand.

Authorities are even advising locals to stay indoors, keep their windows closed, and avoid exercise.

In the south of the country, Sao Paulo – Brazil’s most populous city and the 12th most populous in the world – was covered in darkness in the middle of the day for a number of days.

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro came to office promising to open up the Amazon to development.

Deforestation is booming under his leadership and he remains at loggerheads with other world leaders over the issue.

Since his inauguration in January, more than 72,000 fires have raged across Brazil – 25,000 in the rainforest in August alone.

Even after his government temporarily banned any more deliberate burning in the Amazon, another 4,000 new fires broke out within days of the order.

The disaster is now being openly described by experts as an environmental and a health crisis.



Published: 30 Sep 2019