in Guayaquil in Ecuador, corpses overflow in the streets

Employees of a funeral service April 3 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. STRINGER / REUTERS

In the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, Gilber Arango launched a call for help on the Twitter network on Friday 3 April. "It has been 80 hours since my mother died. Nobody comes to get it. Help us ", he implores. Wrapped in a white sheet, the body of Maria del Carmen, who has died of kidney failure, lies at her feet on the sidewalk. “Hospitals are dangerous and overwhelmed because of the coronavirus. They didn't want it, " explains a few hours later Yureinis, Gilber's sister.

The family of Venezuelan origin lived in a miserable room, the landlady did not want to keep the dead woman, who had to be watched on the street. "The police finally came, continues Yureinis. We were told that she would be cremated, but that we would not have the ashes. " The images of corpses lying in the streets of Guayaquil have been around the world. They contribute to sowing panic between the 2.4 million inhabitants of the city. "The crisis here has turned to horror", sighs Martha Roldos, director of digital media Milhojas.

The first country on the South American continent to be affected by the coronavirus, Ecuador recorded 3,368 cases of Covid-19 and 145 deaths on Friday. No one gives credibility to these figures. President Lenin Moreno himself has admitted that "Official statistics do not reflect reality" and raised the possibility that " tens of thousands of people " may be contaminated. On the maps of the Ministry of Health, the province of Guayas, of which Guayaquil is the capital, is in dark red, with 2,388 cases and 102 deaths, ie more than 70% of the national total.

Centralization and corruption

Veronica Castillo, a business executive, also had to wait more than 48 hours for funeral services to pick up her deceased father. " very probably " of covid-19. She who lives in a large apartment with air conditioning and also has "Found the long time". She concludes: “I understand that in poor neighborhoods, confined people do not want to live with their corpses. " Guayaquil is a dynamic port, animated but marked by social inequalities. The temperature exceeds 30º C.

As everywhere, hospital services which lack masks and tests are struggling to cope with the pandemic; more than elsewhere, the funeral services were overwhelmed. President Lenin Moreno set up a "joint task force" on Thursday so that "The Guayaquil dead have the dignified burial they deserve." The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed on Friday "His dismay" faced with the difficulties encountered by the people of Guayaquil in transporting and burying their loved ones, recalling that "The care of mortal remains is a form of respect for the right to human dignity".

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