Culture

Brazilians in Favelas Form Mutual Aid Systems to Survive the Pandemic

Lead Photo: Volunteers carry supplies to poor residents of the Aglomerado da Serra Favela on June 4, 2020 in Belo Horizonte. Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
Volunteers carry supplies to poor residents of the Aglomerado da Serra Favela on June 4, 2020 in Belo Horizonte. Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images

Brazil continues to struggle through the pandemic. On Tuesday, the country’s number of deaths nearly doubled, reportedly increasing to 1,272 from 679 the day before and adding on to a total of 38,543 fatal cases.

Meanwhile, the government’s response remains inadequate. President Jair Bolsonaro has shrugged off the virus multiple times, implying that there’s little he can do, despite how it’s ravaging his citizens. In fact, his approach has been so lacking that people in Brazil’s favelas are organizing their own fundraisers. Their efforts are meant to ensure their neighbors survive in spite of their president’s lack of action and accountability.

In São Paulo, community leaders are doing everything from hiring their own ambulances to tracking cases and deaths themselves, according to The Washington Post. More than 400 people have been appointed “street presidents” to carry out the duties Bolsonaro has left gaping. Some have created their own unemployment funds to make sure that families around them are able to secure food, medicine and basic necessities—especially in predominantly Black favelas and low-income areas that have been impacted most.

Through local programs, people such as a woman named Laryssa da Silva, who the Post spoke to, have signed up to deliver supplies and help families get on lists for donations. Da Silva also attended a six-hour course to learn more about monitoring sick patients and identifying symptoms.

Another local, Gilson Rodrigues, knew many of the people in his neighborhood would continue working even amid rising contagion numbers. He took it upon himself to monitor the spread of the virus. The Post identifies Rodrigues as the president of the local residents’ association in Paraisópolis.

Bolsonaro, meanwhile, has fought governors who have sought to keep states closed and made more jobs “essential” in order to get more people pushing the economy.

“We decided to create alternatives so that if the government didn’t do its job,” Rodrigues said, “we would be able to mobilize to prevent suffering in the community.”