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10 facts about slums in BrazilBrazil, being among the top 10 most populous countries in the world, has one of the highest levels of wealth inequality. Wealth distribution is lacking, as the south is responsible for the vast majority of Brazil’s bustling economy and holds a large fraction of the nation’s money. The stark contrast between the affluent and the poor is as visible as the divide between the metropolis and the countryside. The outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, namely Rio de Janeiro, indicate a clear division as unregulated neighborhoods, or slums termed “favelas,” are ever-present. Here are 10 facts about slums in Brazil.

10 Facts about Slums in Brazil

  1. Construction of homes: The original slums were constructed from debris and stolen materials such as wooden scraps. The homes generally start as makeshift creations. After a time, improvements are made and the homes are solidified with brick, cinderblocks and sheet metal; however, the homes are far from being “adequate living conditions,” according to the World Bank.
  2. Growth: Favelas started growing between the 1950s and 1980s. As the cost of scarce land increased drastically and people migrated from the countryside to the city, rural migrants were trapped in poverty. During this time period, the population in favelas outside Rio de Janeiro alone increased from around 170,000 to over 600,000.
  3. Lack of housing: Brazil has anywhere between six to eight million fewer houses than it needs to house the residents of the favelas. The lack of housing leads to the proliferation of slum housing and the overcrowding of these neighborhoods. Habitat for Humanity is working alongside city councils to rehabilitate the slums and find solutions to the housing crisis.
  4. Population: According to the 2010 census, nearly 6 percent of Brazil’s population lives in a favela. This is likely due to the low wages and extremely high cost of living in Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil.
  5. Poverty: Favelas are areas of concentrated poverty. More than 50 million Brazilians are living in inadequate conditions. Of these 50 million, most are families that have an income of around $300 per month.
  6. Sanitation: Twenty-six million Brazilians in urban areas do not have access to drinking water, 14 million are without trash collection services and 83 million live without sewage systems. In order to reach clean water, people living in favelas have to walk over two hours each day. Habitat for Humanity is making strides to alleviate the severity of this issue by repairing and enlarging roofs in favelas while also “building cisterns for water catchment and storage,” according to their website.
  7. Life expectancy: The life expectancy in Brazil is approximately 68 years while the life expectancy of individuals living in favelas is merely 48 years. Conditions are improving as medical care is available at no cost. However, essential medicines are lacking and care for illnesses such as bronchitis is rare as resources are slim.
  8. Crime: The favelas are overrun by drug-trafficking gangs, and the police presence is scarce. However, in the favela outside Rio de Janeiro, a local militia formed in response to these gangs. The Police Pacification Units were introduced in 2008 and are slowly reducing the crime rates in the favelas.
  9. Employment: Around 80 percent of people living in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, are employed and a grand majority of the inhabitants have no affiliation with the previously mentioned gangs and violence associated with favelas.
  10. Improving the favelas: While poverty and disease within the favelas is still high, there are social and religious organizations focused on gaining access to basic rights and services for residents of favelas. For example, The Future Begins at Home is a project based in Recife that allows 250 families access to healthier spaces for work, play, and family life.

The favelas of Brazil signify the divide between the poor and the wealthy. Rio de Janeiro has implemented programs to eradicate the favelas and replace the weak, dangerous infrastructure of the slums with more permanent housing. While the conditions of the slums in Brazil may seem hopeless, change is occurring and progress is being made.

– Clare Leo
Photo: Flickr

Water Pollution in BrazilThe 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro brought glaring international attention to the issue of water pollution in Brazil. Untreated sewage flows into coastal waters, particularly around Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the two largest cities in the country. Beaches are coated in trash, sand is reduced to a greasy sludge and the water is black and noxious.

In the weeks approaching the 2016 Games, the United Nations advised athletes to spend as little time in the water as possible, avoid swallowing water, cover cuts with waterproof bandages and shower as soon as possible after exposure.

The reason for these extreme precautions was due to the massive amounts of raw, untreated sewage that is allowed to flow through the channels and into the Atlantic. The worst affected areas in Rio de Janeiro are in the northern part of the city, where the low-income favela communities are concentrated. In these neighborhoods, the government has invested inadequate resources into water systems and sewage treatment.

Foreigners are not the only ones wary of the water in Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay. Locals know to not even dip their toes in, aware that they will likely get a disease from the sickening waters. It has been reported to contain high levels of bacteria and viruses that could likely lead to stomach and respiratory illnesses.

Water pollution in Brazil is not only a major health issue, but an environmental concern as well. Fishermen have seen major decreases in fish and wildlife populations in coastal regions. Where they used to catch six fish in an hour, they may now only catch one.

In response to international criticism, the Brazilian government erected “eco-barriers” across streams and rivers to keep trash from floating into Guanabara Bay. However, not only are they ineffective, the eco-barriers inconvenienced the poor and disenfranchised local fishing communities, cutting off the water routes fishermen used to get to Guanabara Bay.

For many poor communities in Rio de Janeiro, fish are a vital resource for both food and income. Fish are used to feed families and are sold at the local market to buy essential goods like rice and beans. Guanabara Bay is a lifeline for many desperately poor families and the eco-barriers disturbed their access to that lifeline.

What is worse is that the eco-barriers did little to stem the flow of trash into Guanabara Bay, only collecting about 7.5 percent of the rubbish. The inefficiency of government initiatives like this only exacerbates and prolongs the crisis of water pollution in Brazil.

However, one initiative looks promising. Under the umbrella of the Clean Urban Delta Initiative is a proposed solution to help litter pickers get more value from plastic waste by providing a low-cost plastic shredder and molding machine that can make plastic statues or trinkets that could then be sold to tourists at iconic sites in Rio. Local people would be given the opportunity to earn significantly more money, and the government may find some relief from the problem of water pollution in Brazil.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr

ADRA Helps Brazil
In May 2017, a flood in northeastern Brazil left 35,000 residents homeless. As similar disasters have affected Brazilians before, the Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA) is a nonprofit organization working to alleviate what has been a crucially difficult past for the country. How the ADRA helps Brazil is not through focusing on the negative impacts but instead on how they can aid Brazilians in times of disaster.

In January 2011, some of the heaviest rains in history caused major flooding and landslides in Brazil’s three major cities and in 80 smaller communities as well. The ADRA provided 4,500 victims with bed materials and hygiene kits, inviting others to donate. More than 1,000 households received aid as a result. The ADRA also received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy to support Brazilian families in urgent need.

In November 2015, a toxic mudslide containing arsenic, mercury and other poisons made Brazil’s water undrinkable for more than 250,000 residents. The ADRA distributed 53,000 gallons of water to 1,900 families in the city Governador Valadares, and 16,000 gallons of water were given to 570 families in the city Colatina. The ADRA also managed to help more than a quarter of a million people in Minas Gerais.

In March 2016, heavy rains flooded several Brazil cities. After the rains, the water was draining too slowly and increasing the risk of diseases. The ADRA distributed hygiene materials to counter risks of diseases. Disaster victims were also given food and material items and lived in school buildings after losing their homes.

The ADRA partners with other organizations to help Brazil’s street children and disadvantaged ethnic communities. In August 2016, the ADRA worked on a project with Stop Hunger Now to stimulate Brazil’s economy. The project involved sending 100,000 packaged meals to Rio de Janeiro.The ADRA also utilized some of the meals to support 5,000 students.

The ADRA helps Brazil in order to better the lives of the country’s people. By providing Brazil’s disaster victims with meals, hygiene kits and other resources, ADRA gives Brazilians the hope that they will never be alone in times of crisis. Through partnerships with other organizations, the ADRA may even receive further help in the future to alleviate Brazil’s problems.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Brazilian Slums rio de janeiro facts
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

 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Approximately six percent of Brazil’s population live in favelas. Today, there are about 1,000 favelas in Rio and 1,600 in São Paulo.
  4. The typical favela has poor infrastructure, leading to difficulties in electricity and plumbing.
  5.  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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Photo: Flickr

health_threat_to_athletes
The World Health Organization (WHO) is asking the International Olympic Committee to run new tests on the water in Rio de Janeiro. The request comes after an investigation by the Associated Press (AP), which determined the waterways still pose a health threat to athletes.

Previous evaluations of the water only checked for bacteria, not viruses, which is what WHO wants to change.

An AP investigation into Rio’s waterways found that pollution levels are still high in places where canoeists, sailors, swimmers and triathletes will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The AP reported that some athletes training in Rio have fallen ill with symptoms including fever, vomiting and diarrhea because of dangerous levels of viruses and bacteria in the waterways.

The results of the investigation are disappointing for Rio, as being chosen to host the Olympics was supposed to motivate the city to clean its waterways. A newly installed sewage system was thought to be able to handle 80 percent of raw sewage, but as of March, the treatment rate was only 49 percent.

Still, the results aren’t necessarily a surprise, as Rio mayor Eduardo Paes confirmed to Brazil’s SporTV in March that Guanabara Bay, the waterway that is supposed to host the sailing events, would not be clean by the time the games start.

The waterway has become a place where some of the untreated sewage from the city’s 12 million residents ends up.

Rodrigo de Freitas Lake in Central Rio, a second venue for rowing, canoeing, triathlon and open-water events, also poses a health threat to athletes, with tests showing high levels of viruses in the water.

In response to the results of the investigation, the world sailing governing body said it would conduct its own independent testing of Rio’s waterways.

Matt Wotus

Sources: The Washington Post 1, The Washington Post 2, The Washington Post 3
Photo: The Guardian

gentrification_in_rio_de_janeiro
Many believe that gentrification is a purely American and European phenomenon in which large numbers of college graduates move to cheap, urban areas and open yoga studios, green markets and “hipster” coffee shops. However, gentrification is not only a global occurrence but also an established urban renewal and regeneration strategy in all corners of the world.

The Oxford Dictionaries define “gentrification” as the “renovation or improvement (of a house or district) so that it conforms to middle-class tastes.” Middle-class tastes in American cities like Portland, Seattle or New York City usually relate to the rise of what sociologists term the “creative class”—a group of young people entering the workforce concerned with personal expression and technological advances more than monetary progress. Professor and urban studies theorist Richard Florida found that one-third of Americans belong in the creative class.

“I define the Creative Class to include people in science and engineering, architecture and design, education, arts, music and entertainment whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content,” said Florida.

Although developing countries have not necessarily experienced as significant a rise of a distinct creative class, middle-class residents of the community as well as significant tourist populations have completely redesigned global cities. Specifically, some poor shantytowns—favelas—in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil have experienced a complete upheaval of population and culture to cater to new, wealthier residents.

“Pacification programs” that officials applied in the past fifteen years, especially those immediately before Rio’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup and leading up to the 2016 Olympics, have done as much harm as good.

Favela residents report that areas that were once slums, full of rampant drug gangs, violence and poverty, are now safe places to live, policed by a permanent security presence. Increased security in favelas has attracted a population with a sense for business and entrepreneurship, which keeps the economic interests growing.

Foreigners have recently entered the housing market in favelas in Rio and are buying property more frequently than locals. As tourists no longer have to pay taxes to drug gangs, many foreign and native residents advertised their property for temporary stay on the Airbnb website during the World Cup and Olympics.

As the value and popularity of the city increases with new construction and business opportunities, property prices have risen dramatically. Houses that cost $2,500 in 2006 cost $75,000 in 2014. As a result, whole socioeconomic groups no longer have the ability to live in the favelas that they once called home. Current residents are also struggling with rent increases and displacement, and are being forced to move to more dangerous favelas.

Ebilene Rodriguez Periera, a 54-year-old resident of a favela in Vidigal, an area in Rio, said that the new hotels and restaurants are being built for foreigners, “not for us.” Veronica Mora, another resident of a favela in Santa Marta, detailed community resistance against rent increases, demolitions and evictions.

“For years, the authorities did nothing when it was so dangerous to live here. Now that the area is finally safe, they want us to move out,” said Mora.

American researcher and former resident of Santa Marta, Charles Heck, finds that pacification programs—essentially government-sponsored gentrification programs—have changed urbanization and urban regeneration policies. Many new urbanization policies now deny current residents basic trash, water and electrical services in what some urban theorist experts call an attempt to force residents out. Gentrification in Rio de Janeiro has resulted in Rio’s strategic plan to provide for a 5% reduction in favelas from 2013 to 2016.

“Post-UPP, urbanization has focused primarily on land titles and new businesses rather than health, sanitation, education and other infrastructure,” said Heck.

The U.N. has critiqued Rio’s implementation of gentrification policies in the past, as an organized governmental effort to include residents of favelas in urban plans is essential to a thriving city. Inclusion of large social and socioeconomic groups encourages citizen participation and increases the viability of solutions to social justice issues in Portland and Rio de Janeiro alike.

Paulina Menichiello

Sources: Business Insider, NPR, Oxford Dictionary, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

Favelas in Rio
In Brazil, especially in the city of Rio de Janeiro, the wealthy tend to live closest to the sea. Favelas, or shantytowns, are slums in Brazil that are located farther away from the water on hills. They started out as an inexpensive housing option for returning Brazilian soldiers and freed African slaves in the 19th century. In Rio de Janeiro, a city of about six million people, approximately 20 percent live in favelas.

The urban phenomenon of favelas grew during the dictatorship of Gétulio Vargas, who pushed for greater industrialization within Brazil, which brought in more immigrants to Rio de Janeiro and therefore more occupants into the cheaper form of housing.

The 600 favelas in Rio de Janeiro today are mostly known for their high levels of poverty and crime, with numerous drug trafficking groups and street gangs operating within the various favelas that dot the hills of Rio de Janeiro. Favelas are also known for their relative lack of public services and government attention. Brazil is known to be one of the most unequal countries economically, with the top 10 percent of the population earning 50 percent of the national income and 8.5 percent of people living below the poverty line.

The location of favelas makes it difficult for the Brazilian government to provide proper public services, and as such makes it harder for the government to establish a positive presence in the favelas, which only furthers the cycle of violence as gangs are given more or less free reign.

This security issue within the favelas has been addressed by the introduction of a government program in 2008 that aimed to crack down on violence in the slums. Such programs are proving especially important ahead of the upcoming World Cup. The program installs permanent “police pacification units” (PPUs) throughout the favelas to deter crime and rid the favelas of the most serious gangs.

These PPUs are becoming a more widely accepted form of security control on behalf of the government. In Rio de Janeiro alone there are currently around 37 PPUs covering an area of about 1.5 million people, yet these PPUs have been criticized in Brazil for their severe tactics in dealing with local residents. Right now more than 24 policemen are facing charges for allegedly torturing a local resident of a favela.

More positive government policies have been successful in bringing 40 million Brazilians into the middle class over the last decade. Moreover, nationwide statistics indicate that 15.9 percent of Brazilians were impoverished in 2012, down from 18 percent in 2011. But Brazil is a land of contradictions, and despite this impressive decrease in poverty the South American nation remains the 12th most unequal nation in terms of income. Although Brazil should certainly be commended for its substantial decrease in poverty, policies should be implemented to ensure further social inclusion for those living on the margins.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: IRIN News, G1, BBC News, NPR, BBC News
Photo: Blog Spot

 

Read The Borgen Project Magazine

 

brazilian_poor
Brazil has the strongest economy in Latin America with an extremely important agricultural and industrial influence, but there is still a large amount of poverty in the country. The main cause of the majority of Brazilian poverty is the problems concerning social exclusion and income inequality, though there have been recent improvements with the distribution of income.

Even though Brazil would be classified as a middle-income country with plenty of natural resources, the human development indicators and poverty levels in the poor rural areas are very similar to those of other impoverished Latin American countries.

Nearly 35% of the entire country lives in poverty with less than two dollars a day, and about 51% of the people living in rural areas experience poverty. Since there are approximately 36 million people living in the rural areas of Brazil, there are around 18 million people in poor rural areas; the most in any country in the Western Hemisphere.

In Latin America, the largest concentration of rural poverty is in the Northeastern region of Brazil with 58% of the region living in poverty.

In the poor rural communities, citizens are deprived of sufficient sewage systems, adequate water supplies, infrastructure and technology, and strong education and health facilities. Women, youth and indigenous people are among the poorest and most vulnerable of the Brazilian rural areas. Many women have the responsibility of managing the family farm as well as taking care of their children because they are either single mothers or their husbands are out looking for work; households like this make up 27% of the rural Brazilian poor. These people are living in poverty mostly because of inequality of land and the lack of access to formal education.

In preparation for the 2016 Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian government is taking steps to clean up the city and rejuvenate the area. Though this is good for bringing in revenue from the tourism that will come with the Olympics, the improvements to the city are at the expense of the nearby poor.

Hundreds of thousands have been relocated to make room for the expansion that has begun for the Olympics. The government is expanding the roads and metro lines in addition to renovating the airport in order to make it easier for tourists to travel while in the country.

Many families are offered a proposition by city officials that they really cannot refuse. They can either take a small compensation package or they can simply leave with nothing. If they take the compensation package, they agree to move to a small apartment in a housing project that is very far from where they work, but that is at least better than leaving without any compensation whatsoever. Often times, housing projects like these cannot continue to be maintained because the people living in them do not have the money to pay maintenance fees, so these people are not necessarily making improvements to their lives by moving.

There are varying numbers of how many people have been moved out of their homes, but Amnesty International claims around 19,200 families in the Rio de Janeiro area alone have been forced to relocate since 2009. Rio authorities, on the other hand, claim to only be relocating 278 families that are living where the Olympic Village is being built. There is a large gap between these numbers and it is seemingly the poor that are ultimately paying for the big events to come in Brazil.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: Guardian Liberty Voice, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: The Republic

2016_Olympics_Rio_de_Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is working to reinvent itself into a city of modernity in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Improvements will go beyond the Olympics, with high hopes of achieving sustainable development through this transformation.

The largest city in Brazil and first-ever Olympic hosting site in South America, Rio de Janeiro is in store for drastic changes to its infrastructure and economy. The games and preparation will benefit 55 different sectors, with construction seeing the biggest increase of 10.5 percent; increases in real estate, services, oil and gas, transportation and communication are also at the top of the list.

These sectors will see increases in employment leading up to the Olympics and improvements made will provide an economic boost during the games. Goldman Sachs economist Jose Ursua predicts: “A country with a better physical infrastructure [and] organizing security capabilities will likely be in a better position to minimize the costs and maximize the benefits associated with the games.”

The immense infrastructure changes to the capital city are being paid for mostly by the private sector. Half of Olympic Park (including press and broadcast centers,) the athletes’ villages, the golf course, a new waste water treatment plant and a 4 billion dollar port redevelopment are all privately funded. The waste water treatment plant will have better flood control and will provide benefits for the city well past the 2016 Games. There will also be 36,400 new hotel rooms added for the city. This project will ensure there are no room shortages for Brazil’s tourism industry in the future, as seen in the past.

Education will also see improvements in the years leading up to the Olympic games. Over 2,000 teachers will be trained, and students in grades 1-9 will be taught English. The committee is also emphasizing sports and academics in grades 6-9. With a special construction plan, the handball arena will be able to be changed into four public schools after the games.

Some financial and structural challenges remain, including an infrastructural debt. Although the government is responsible to cover any gaps in funding, organizers are trying to attract more private investments so the burden does not rest on taxpayers. The 31st Olympic games and city improvements brought with it will not only bring short-term prosperity to Brazil, but also improvements for long-term growth and investment opportunities for the city to thrive.

Maris Brummel

Sources: CFR
Photo: Huffington Post

Passinho_in_Brazil_Decreasing_Youth_Crime_in_Slums_of_Brazil
Passinho, a small step dance, is gaining incredible momentum in Brazil, specifically coming out of the outlying peripheries (slums) of Rio de Janeiro. The dance caught fire when it gained media attention through YouTube and news spotlights highlighting the Passinho dance craze. Passinho has been around for more than eight years, but it just recently entered mainstream and can be seen on many ads and television commercials. The dance has grown so big that a number of major competitions are held throughout Brazil hosting hundreds of youths passionate about Passinho. The dance is a mixture of break-dancing, funk, pop, and traditional dances like the samba, pagode, and frevo. Many young people perform Passinho barefoot.

Rio de Janeiro is home to approximately 11.7 million people. The city is largely made up of poor shanty settlements. Rio de Janeiro faced a rapid push in urbanization, resulting in a major influx in migration, which ultimately led to a shortage in housing. The housing shortage has forced people to construct their own homes out of scrap materials, which are temporary places of living commonly known as favelas. The housing conditions in the favelas are extremely poor, with families often sharing only one tap, and forced to live without proper sewage maintenance.

The shanty settlements of Rio de Janeiro have been home to large amounts of violence, crime, and drug use. Before Passinho became widely popular, youths would engage in drug trafficking and violence to get them through the day. Now that Passinho has taken center stage in Rio, youths have a healthy and fun alternative to the crime that once ruled the poor areas of Rio de Janeiro. Instead of getting involved in drug trafficking, youths are getting involved in the Passinho dance scene, which is broadcasted through YouTube and Facebook for fans all over the world to see.

The extensive popularity of Passinho is inspiring young people all over the world. It is showing the world that there are fun alternatives to crime that young people actually want to engage in, despite their poor living conditions. Passinho goes beyond the dance floor, bringing positive light into the lives of young people living in the favelas of Brazil.

– Chante Owens

Sources: Internet Geography, NPR, Black Women of Brazil
Photo: UOL Entertainment

 

 

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