people stand in line during covid response in India

COVID-19 Pandemic in India and Brazil

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"The participation of community leaders and volunteers has been paramount. A sense of belonging to the social cause has aroused a spirit of solidarity ... so that love will reign and life will prevail."

— Fabio Pereira dos Santos, health and hygiene educator/prelate of Tefe


Catholic Relief Services and our partners around the world are working on the front lines of the COVID‑19 pandemic to prevent risk, save lives and bolster recovery in high-risk communities. The current crises in India and Brazil highlight the heightened risks facing vulnerable families and communities—and the need for CRS and our local partners to respond.


3 women in India wearing masks at crematorium
At a crematorium in New Delhi, India, women mourn a person who died of COVID‑19.
Photo by Vijay Pandey/ZUMA Wire/Alamy


As India faces a second wave of COVID-19, thousands of people are dying daily. On April 26, 2021, the country reported the world’s highest daily caseload for the fifth straight day, with 352,991 new cases and 2,812 virus‑related deaths. Hospitals and medical facilities across the country are beyond capacity, having run out of oxygen and intensive care beds. Hundreds of patients can be seen awaiting lifesaving care outside facilities in crowded city centers.

CRS and Caritas India are supporting families and communities affected by COVID‑19 in the states of Kerala, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and in the capital, Delhi, complementing government efforts. A critical role for CRS and Caritas has been supporting migrant workers who have a heightened risk of COVID‑19 exposure and are stigmatized because of their work. To date, CRS and Caritas India have provided 14,885 people with food assistance and hygiene kits. We have also provided psychological first aid for those dealing with distress, anxiety and loss.



Brazilian on boat with hygiene kits
Caritas Brasileira transports hygiene kits by boat to remote communities in Brazil’s northwestern state of Amazonas. 
Photo courtesy of Caritas Brasileira 

Brazil accounts for 30% of new COVID‑19 cases globally and is home to an increasing number of immune‑resistant and highly contagious variants. On March 5, 2021, World Health Organization Director‑General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that Brazil’s failure to arrest the virus’ spread should be a concern for Latin American neighbors and a warning to the world. Brazil has the second‑highest number of deaths globally after the United States. Rural and urban health systems are in total collapse, and intensive care units for treating COVID‑19 have reached critical occupancy levels, at over 90% in 15 of 27 state capitals.

Mass vaccination has been slow, with the government announcing that it only has enough doses for half the population by the end of 2021. A recently approved law allowing states and private companies to buy vaccines will damage the vaccination campaign by driving up competition and prices. This, in turn, exacerbates the country’s deep social and regional inequalities. The Brazilian media report a growing anti‑vaccine sentiment, which had been rare in a country with an award‑winning national immunization infrastructure.


Global Effort

CRS and our partners have reached over 10 million people to date through on-the-ground efforts that help prevent the spread of COVID‑19, bolster the capacity of local health responders, and assist extremely vulnerable families to manage the compounded impacts of the pandemic on their lives.

A top priority for CRS is ensuring that national vaccine strategies include people in the hardest-to-reach communities.

We are also using our networks and programs to educate local leaders and communities about the vaccines.

CRS and our Catholic partners play a unique role as a trusted source of information—which, at a time of fear and misinformation, is truly lifesaving.



CRS Health Response Capacity

As a leader in international humanitarian aid, CRS often goes where others don’t. We carry out an array of health-related activities tailored to the needs of the countries and communities we serve. Our international health aid programs are designed to address inequities, support universal access to services and produce long lasting results. Our approach strengthens local partners, develops local solutions and works in remote areas often neglected by existing health and social service systems. Learn more about CRS health programming.