Featured in Town Planning Review 92.3: Strategies in Brazilian informal settlements: fighting COVID-19 towards urban resilience

The editors of Town Planning Review (TPR) have selected the following paper as a Featured Viewpoint in TPR 92.3:

Strategies in Brazilian informal settlements: fighting COVID-19 towards urban resilience‘ by Lara Furtado.

When asked to describe the paper and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

After over one year of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, much attention has been paid to the longstanding duress experienced by low-income communities. The lasting health crisis has continued to particularly harm families in informal settlements living in crowded homes with little access to infrastructure. In Brazil, the inaction of the Federal government has consistently made the headlines (by deciding not to purchase vaccines and expand the emergency bill) – and in some cases its actions are altogether more harmful (such as the institutional policy of recommending chloroquine as a treatment even after it was discredited by the entire scientific community).

In spite of, and likely due to these atrocities, vulnerable communities have yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel and continue to seek immediate economic and social relief. Informal dwellers have taken upon themselves to develop coping strategies to address urgent needs not met by State policy. As different crises emerge, grassroots movements, community leaders and volunteer dwellers are key stakeholders with knowledge of local hardships and potentials that can identify needs and innovative ways to take action.

This viewpoint presents a road-map for five tiers of action that can be targeted strategically to help communities immediately and also in the long run. Since the piece was written in February 2020, the number of fatalities from COVID-19 has continued to rise and reached a staggering 422,000 souls lost by May 2021. This signals that the crisis is far from over and there is much need for organized action that can help communities grow stronger instead of just muddle through.

I divide these tiers of action into (1) Basic Safety, (2) Health, (3) Social Network, (4) Information and (5) Personal ranging from more to least urgent and emphasize that resilient communities can be built by moving from levels 1 to 5. This process has been witnessed in several communities, which have become empowered to take their actions beyond crowdfunding and collecting donations. Examples in Brazil show how local agents developed successful contact tracing strategies, their own channels of communication, partnered with established research institutions and scholars and created networks of support to cope with loss. My goal here is not to summarize those cases, but to highlight how communities that target those five tiers comprehensively can build resiliency and become more equipped to deal with future hardships.

Read the full viewpoint here.