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Covid-19 reaches Brazil’s favelas

The basic protective measures against coronavirus is based on the assumption that everyone has a home and access to water, but this idea does not correspond to the reality of thousands of Brazilians living in favelas. The poorest population in the country has even no access to drinking water or running water to wash their hands. Also confinement is impossible for people living in tiny houses shared with 8 or more, as in Paraisopolis, the second largest favela in Sao Paulo with 100 thousand people living in narrow alleys less than a meter away.

In Paraisópolis, the lack of information has generated a fearful climate, as the government does not publish any data claiming not to want to alarm the population. Paulo Talarico, chief-editor of the Agência Mural, says that the population is receiving delayed results of tests, which are taking 15 days to be disclosed. Many show the symptoms and end the isolation without having the test result or, in worst cases, there are many deaths on suspicion. In order to help guide favela residents dealing with misinformation, the Agência Mural has played an important role, trying to “explain what is really happening to the community
through social networks, such as Facebook and Whatsapp with daily podcasts”, Talarico says. These podcasts reinforce the importance of staying at home and the use of masks. The news agency is focused on favelas of São Paulo with journalists from different slums. The fear of contracting Covid-19 and fear of surviving without work has divided residents’ opinion about the lockdown imposed by the state government.

Most residents are informal or basic service workers, such as gatekeepers and gardeners. “For fear of losing their jobs, some
of them even go to work sick, with respiratory symptoms and without seeking medical help”, Talarico informs. Others however had already lost their jobs and even the small shops are facing the impact of the lockdown. Talarico relates that some bars are leaving an opened window at daylight to make small sales to maintain some of their income. Especially informal workers are
struggling to earn money , as beauty salons which are offering raffle tickets of beauty products. Moreover, many families, which children were fed only at school, are now depending on donations. Community groups have collected donations of food and cleaning supplies, and also created projects to help the community’s income, like the production of 50 thousand masks, by a group of local women seamstresses who receive materials donated from large companies.

Talarico believes that the crisis by Covid-19 on communities has highlighted problems caused by inequality. “I see how naturally we are used to living things that are not natural, like living without water and electricity. A number of things that should never have been normal and Covid-19 helped, if I can use this word, to shed light on that. Inequality seemed natural. We need to think about solutions to solve many problems that we are experiencing today”, he says. “We have great hope from now on that in the future these examples that we have had now bring clear improvements to be applied in people’s lives and we will be able to take further steps afterwards, reduce these inequalities further and achieve a better society.”

By: Julie Lemos

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