People in Mexico city are very worried. Deaths from the swine flu continue to rise. More frightening for many, the government is not telling them what is going on. Although the swine flu has been killing people for the last two weeks, the country was only told about the disease on Friday.
For the family of Oscar Perez who found out Friday that Oscar had the illness, it was too late to treat. He died the next morning. On Sunday they went to collect his remains at the crematorium. All Flu deaths must be cremated. Oscar’s grandmother lives in a small two room apartment in a poor neighborhood near the airport. She was angry with the government for not saving her boy, and refusing to give her family a vaccine against the virus. She was also angry that they waited so long to tell the public.
The government has refused to say which type of people have been affected most, besides the alarming fact that most are between 20-50 years old ( a sure sign of a pandemic). However, it is clear that the poor will be hit hardest. They have less access to health care and government information, less ability to advocate for themselves. They live closer together in more unsanitary conditions. While the government passes out the masks that everybody now wears to men in SUV’s it is unlikely they are doing so in the poorest neighborhoods.
During a visit to a hospital in Iztapalpa a poor neighborhood in the south of the city where gunshots rang out while I was interviewing a Doctor, it was clear that they were not prepared. Medical staff all stated different things about the disease, and what was being done. In the directors office, a few boxes of masks were piled next to a box of goggles. And on the door was a complaint by the health care union about the hospital failing to take care of its workers during the crisis.
Walking through the center on Saturday I was struck by how many beggars there were on the streets, every few blocks they held out their hands to the few people walking on the normally crowded streets. It took me a while to realize that there was always this many, I just couldn’t see them for the crowds of people.
Meanwhile wealthy residents chat on the Internet about getting cool surgical masks from Argentina, “I’ll risk going out to the concert without a mask,” one girl writes excitedly.
Throughout the city, street vendors beggars, window washers, and taxi drivers have not choice but to go out. Working for a smaller and smaller clientele. Living day to day, they have no back up money for a rainy day (let along a possible flu pandemic.