Rio de Janeiro confirms first virus deaths in favelas

By: AFP      Published: 12:21 AM, 10 Apr, 2020
Rio de Janeiro confirms first virus deaths in favelas
A municipal worker disinfects a street as a measure against COVID-19 coronavirus outside Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on April 9, 2020.–AFP

Brazilian authorities on Thursday confirmed the first deaths from new coronavirus in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, where poverty, crowding and poor sanitation have raised fears of a catastrophe.

The Rio health ministry reported six victims in four slums from different parts of the city, in its database of coronavirus deaths.

They included two in Rocinha, the largest slum in Latin America, which sits perched in the hills overlooking the chic neighborhoods of Gavea and Sao Conrado, near the iconic Ipanema beach.

Rio's favelas are home to 1.5 million people, around a quarter of the city's population.

Basic coronavirus containment measures such as hand-washing and social distancing present a major challenge there.

Many homes have no running water, and many people have no savings and no way to make a living if they stay home.

On Thursday the federal government began disbursing monthly payments of 600 reals (about $120) to help such families through the crisis.

Brazil has been the country hardest hit by COVID-19 in Latin America, with 800 deaths so far.

Of those, 73 have been in Rio de Janeiro.