A survey conducted in 63 slums, or favelas, in 35 cities throughout Brazil, shows that 94 percent of favela residents say they are happy, and three thirds would not leave their neighborhood if their income doubled, in spite of being strongly critical of the quality of public services provided in their communities.
The study was made into a book entitled Um País Chamado Favela (A Country Named Favela), launched on Sunday (September 14) in Rio de Janeiro.
Written by Celso Athayde, founder of the Unified Center for the Favelas (Cufa), and Renato Meirelles, from the Data Popular Institute, the book is the most comprehensive work ever published on the Brazilian slums.
As part of the research that originated the book, 2 thousand people were interviewed.
The book will be given to all candidates running for presidency in the coming October elections. “We believe that the debate about the favelas must not serve as a flag to party A, B, or C. It has to be a flag for Brazilian society in a discussion over public policy, regardless of the leader taking up office,” Meirelles said.
The figures reveal that over 12 million people in the country live in the favelas, most of whom in big cities. “They’re predominantly urban areas, and 89 percent are located in metropolitan regions,” Meirelles says, adding that the majority of the population in the slums is young and black.
According to Meirelles, slum residents are sharply critical of the quality of the public services, especially security, basic sanitation, lighting, health care and land ownership.
“The income in the favela has improved, but the quality of public services hasn’t improved at the same pace,” he argued.
Health and Education
Ealier this year, Rio’s Mayor Eduardo Paes met with community leaders of the Complexo da Maré slums to map the most pressing needs of the community. The local residents’ associations listed two priorities: health and education, including early schooling.
The chair of the residents’ association of Parque da Maré, José Carlos Barbosa, said building new health centers is a priority, targeted to serve a total 130,000 people living in the 15 slums of the complex, edging Guanabara Bay in the north side of the city.
“We would need three new community health centers to meet our demands. We don’t just want military occupation with all that ostensible police force, most importantly, we want the capabilities we all need to care for our youth and seniors,” Barbosa said. Parque da Maré alone has a population of 25,000 according to him.
Cristiano Reis, chair of the residents’ association of Praia de Ramos and Roquete Pinto, complained that the two communities haven’t received as much investment as other slums in the complex.
“We need basic sanitation and health centers, but most importantly, day care, which is something we still don’t have. Those of us with young kids end up having to find somebody to look after them, or simply can’t get a job because they don’t have anybody to leave their kids with. We’re also badly underserved in terms of healthcare,” he said.
Reis said a local day care center capable of serving 300 children would be enough to address shortages in the two communities, which he estimates to be home to 20,000 people.
The mayor promised to establish the community health centers, which will be operated by private organizations, in addition to 19 learning facilities, including a school campus with six schools and a day care facility by 2016.
“What we are looking to is give full-time education to all our kids in Maré. A bidding was held last week so that works on the campus can start within a month near the Olympic Village. And there’s still the three community health centers which we should be starting to build very soon,” Paes said.