By Matthew Elliott, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With almost five years elapsing since the city’s pioneering police pacification program was first initiated in Rio’s favelas, the improvement of security has been largely considered successful. However basic public services have yet to reach many communities, and the Instituto Pereira Passos (IPP) has now created an index to measure the conditions of pacified neighborhoods.
Adequate sanitation, mail delivery, garbage collection, road conditions and internet access are among key amenities that are still missing for residents of many favela communities. Residual prejudices and practical difficulties confound the matter with operators often unwilling or unable to fully deliver goods and services.
Authorities acknowledge the issues and are keen to stress that improvements are underway. The IPP, the agency responsible for the UPP Social program, has now introduced a Rapid Participation Map (MRP) which will grade pacified urban communities on specifics such as water supply, sewage, cleaning and mobility with an overall average grade then provided.
IPP President Eduarda La Roque says that “By the end of the year all [Police Pacification Units (Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora, or UPPs] will have MRPs. It is important to have accurate numbers and indicators in order to establish goals for each community.”
Through the MRP index, authorities are then able to define priorities for investments and see which services are needed the most where. Some investments are already planned or underway through the growth acceleration plan PAC 2, although government priorities have faced criticism in several cases.
Some public services are making headway in pacified favela communities with major electricity supplier Light reaping substantial benefits from pacification. With 176,000 consumers in UPP areas the company has seen losses from ‘gatos’ (illegal electrical setups) drop from 64.1 percent to 12.3 percent, while timely payments rose from 9.6 percent to 93.3 percent in fifteen of the 33 UPP posts.
Postal and delivery services, another critical indicator of inclusiveness, have seen more sporadic improvements. According to the Municipal Planning Bureau 14,677 streets in pacified areas are now recorded.
An estimated ninety percent of homes in City of God favela community also receive mail. In Rocinha, Dona Marta and Vidigal, however, only a few streets are effectively mapped, a fact which hinders basic needs.
Santa Marta, or Dona Marta, was the first favela to receive a UPP, but resident Ricardo Araújo told O Globo in a recent report, “We bought a refrigerator, which was left at the foot of the hill. We gave it back and went to court. The store acknowledged the mistake and took the fridge to my house.”
Director of the Association of Residents of Vidigal, André Maurício Gosi, says there is plenty to do, listing problems such as lack of health facilities, kindergartens and schools. “We live in dire situations. If you ask a taxi driver to take [you] home, he usually refuses. Pure prejudice,” he told O Globo.
Michelle Silva, a community activist in Rocinha, told The Rio Times how the negligence posed a major health problem. “Another thing is health, people who live in holes with no ventilation, [are facing the danger of] tubercolosis and other diseases transmitted by rats. Favelas have many problems related to rats, if I leave the trash in front of my house the rats tear it apart.”
The inaugural UPP was installed in the Santa Marta favela community on December 19, 2008. Now there are a total of 226 communities currently pacified by 33 UPPs across the city, a number the government is keen to expand by 2014.