Brazilians living in marginalized communities are struggling to avoid the spread of the new coronavirus: many people live in the same house, in small spaces and don’t have the money to buy basic hygiene products. UNICEF and Granado joined forces to help them by donating liquid soap to five projects that care for vulnerable children and youth in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The products were delivered to the families’ homes. Cíntia and Josete are two women who benefitted from the donation.

Cintia Ramos is a “gig economy” worker and used to set up her stall to sell merchandise every day in the community of Vila Kennedy, in the western region of Rio de Janeiro. In the last few weeks, due to the coronavirus quarantine, sales have stopped, and she has had no gas for cooking at home. In addition to worrying about her financial difficulties, Cintia is losing sleep now thinking about how she can protect her family from the new coronavirus.

Cintia lives with her children, her mother, sisters and nephews. In total, there are 11 family members residing in the same house. With so many people and not enough money to take care of their needs, life under coronavirus has become more difficult.

"Here we have many children and usually we have just one bar of soap to share amongst us. The small bar of soap quickly runs out after everyone takes a shower. Sometimes we don't have money to buy more soap, and we have to wash our hands with water only," she said.

Last week, help knocked at Cintia's door. The family received a liquid soap donation from Granado, in a partnership with UNICEF. The company donated 1,470 liters of liquid soap to five projects linked to UNICEF initiatives that care for the most vulnerable children and youth in Rio de Janeiro. Five local NGOs received donations and went from house to house, distributing them to the families.

SAAF/Agencia Redes para Juventude, a project that empowers youth to transform ideas into intervention projects in their communities, distributed soap to the community of Vila Kennedy. Some 50 families received the donation, largest families were given priority, as were people considered to be in the highest risk groups, including informal workers.

The donations arrived amid concerns about how people would be able to adhere to safe hygiene practices and maintain social distancing measures. In many cases, the crowding and the proximity between the houses don’t allow for safe distancing precautions and the contact between people remains close, causing a greater risk of spreading the disease.

At the home of Josete Silva, a mother of four, everyone lives in just one room. The family talked about the challenges they have been facing living in a small space, suffering from heat inside the house and the fact that the teenagers have not been able to attend classes. The family is dependent on the income that Josete earns from cleaning houses, but she has been unable to find work since the quarantine began.

“I'm really scared. I am both father and mother for my children. If I contract the virus, what will happen to them?” Josete said emotionally.

Delivering soap and information to the vulnerable

For Carol Du Pre, a member of the SAAF in Vila Kennedy, the delivery of the soap was not only important for safe hygiene, but it was an opportunity to talk to the families about what was going on in the world. “We informed them that the virus was a real danger and that many people were dying. We talked to each family about why prevention was so important, and we encouraged them to follow all of the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO),” she said.

According to Carol, the circulation of fake and malicious news has been the main challenge in the community, besides the difficulties that are already common in their daily lives. “The coronavirus exacerbates all the challenges that communities face every day: the challenge of inequality,” she added.