‘We’re Abandoned to Our Own Fate’: Coronavirus Menaces Brazil’s Favelas
By Don Phillips
Renato Rosas knows what poverty feels like. The musician and biomedical salesman grew up in one of Brazil’s biggest favelas, in the Amazon city of Belém. Relatives still live in the wooden stilt houses that line the black, polluted rivers running into Guajará Bay.
“It is the most extreme poverty,” he said of the Baixadas da Estrada Nova Jurunas neighbourhood where floods, deadly sucuri snakes lurking in floating rubbish and armed drug gangs are among the challenges.
In March, as the coronavirus pandemic began to hit, Brazil’s state governors closed schools, businesses and shops, shutting off the income of favela residents and leaving them with dwindling supplies of food. More than half of Belém’s 1.5 million people live in favelas and children normally fed at school were at home going hungry. “People were in need,” Rosas, 38, said.
He and colleagues from the music and education project Farofa Black started raising money for food parcels – known as cesta básica, the basic basket in Brazil – to deliver around the community.
“When we stop at one of these places people come running. It is very fast, it all runs out very quickly,” he said.
Photo courtesy of Bruno Locatelli / CIFOR.