In 2016, the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro drew massive media attention to Brazil. While the majority of the media focus centered on the games themselves, concerns grew about Brazil’s dangerous climate, particularly in regard to the country’s slums. Below are facts about Brazilian slums.
Top Facts about Slums in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil
- The common term for a Brazilian slum is a favela. The name originated out of wartime, as soldiers during Brazil’s civil war sought temporary refuge on hills filled with favela plants.
- Favelas grew as migration increased. Since proper housing was too expensive for many immigrants, they turned to the poor, yet cheap, conditions favelas provided on the outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
- Approximately six percent of Brazil’s population lives in favelas. Today, there are about 1,000 favelas in Rio and 1,600 in São Paulo.
- The typical favela has poor infrastructure, leading to difficulties in electricity and plumbing.
- Disease is also rampant within favelas, as there is no standard for sanitation. Health risks may stem from overcrowding, pollution and a lack of waste disposal systems. Life expectancy within favelas is approximately 48 years, while the national average is 68.
- Poor living conditions within favelas often breed crime. Drug trafficking is common, with most members being young male teenagers, who are four-fifths more likely to die before age 21, Joe Griffin of The Guardian reports.
- Gangs not only initiate wars amongst each other in Brazilian slums, but against police. There have been frequent shootouts between gangs and police, especially during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio when the state government was forced to employ numerous police pacification units (UPPs).
- Although UPPs originally heightened safety when initially introduced in 2008, they have recently been the center of much controversy, as civilian deaths have increased as a result of police misconduct.
- Despite these poor conditions, life in favelas is beginning to improve. NGOs, such as Community in Action, are focused on sustainable community development within these Brazilian slums.
- Many houses now have access to new technologies, such as television and the Internet. In addition, small businesses are making progress within their communities, most recently in the area of tourism.
Although progress appears underway, the Brazilian government must take more secure action to ensure that conditions within these Brazilian slums improve further.
– Genevieve T. DeLorenzo