According to Human Rights Watch, Brazil has not addressed longstanding human rights problems that allowed the Zika outbreak to escalate, leaving the population vulnerable to future outbreaks and other serious public health risks. The government declared an end to the national public health emergency related to the Zika virus in May 2017.

The Human Rights Watch’s report, “Neglected and Unprotected: The Impact of the Zika Outbreak on Women and Girls in Northeastern Brazil,” documents gaps in the Brazilian authorities’ response that have a harmful impact on women and girls and leave the general population vulnerable to continued outbreaks of serious mosquito-borne illnesses. Government investments in water and sanitation infrastructure have been inadequate. Thus, years of neglect contributed to the water and wastewater conditions allowed the proliferation of the Aedes mosquito and the rapid spread of the virus, Human Rights Watch found.

The report states that more than one-third of Brazil’s population lacks access to a continuous water supply. That leaves people with no choice but to fill tanks and other containers with water for household use, which can unintentionally become potential mosquito breeding grounds if left uncovered and untreated. More than 35 million people in Brazil lack adequate facilities and services for the safe disposal of human waste.

In 2017, the number of Zika cases, and the number of infants born with disabilities linked to the virus, dropped dramatically as compared to the same period in 2016, but authorities need to keep their eyes open and tackle the roots of the problem, concludes the report.

Source: Human Rights Watch