Introducing The Covid-19 In Favelas Unified Dashboard
August 26, 2020—To overcome the data deficit regarding Covid-19 in favelas, a handful of data-savvy favela-based groups, fully aware of the role of data in saving lives, set up their own dashboards with community monitoring of the illness. Inspired by these initiatives, a growing coalition of favela-based and favela-supporting civil society organizations have come together around the Covid-19 in Favelas Unified Dashboard.
Favela advocacy organization Catalytic Communities (CatComm), which has supported favela-based organizers for twenty years, partnered with Esri to realize the dashboard, available at www.favela.info. The Unified Dashboard works to identify and develop data sources on probable and confirmed cases through a network of community sources, dozens of favela-based rapporteurs across the city, government-published dashboards, and news clippings. It also allows for residents to report their symptoms directly using a symptom-checking algorithm.
Its primary goal is to support favela-based prevention efforts in informing their own residents and pressuring for needed public policies, while also providing a more accurate view of the impact of the pandemic on favelas. As trusted community-based rapporteurs and other sources produce greater accuracy than publicly-available data and do so by each favela, a clearer view of the true reach of the pandemic across Rio’s favelas is emerging.
Since launching in early July, the Covid-19 in Favelas Unified Dashboard has quickly become a primary reference among those looking for data on the impact of the pandemic on favelas, from community groups, to media outlets, public agencies, and researchers. Each week new sources of data are identified among community partners, and the database is further strengthened.
Partners to date include a range of health, data and community organizations and collectives, ranging from Brazil's national health foundation, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), to international housing NGO TECHO, to favela-based collectives and NGOs like A.M.I.G.A.S., Centro Social Fusão, Coletivo Conexões Periféricas-RP, Covid por CEP, Data_Labe, Fala Roça, Favela Vertical, Fórum Grita Baixada, Frente de Mobilização da Maré, LabJaca, Mulheres de Frente, Observatório de Favelas, PerifaConnection, Redes da Maré, SOS Providência, Voz das Comunidades, and WikiFavelas.
We have set up a special fund to help Catalytic Communities fight the coronavirus in Rio's favelas through the Covid-19 in Favelas Unified Dashboard and other critical programs listed below.
Though much of our promised funding for the year was called off at the beginning of the pandemic due to economic impacts on our donor institutions, we have been able to continue responding to favelas' urgent needs since March thanks to those who have contributed in this campaign so far.
But to keep it up we must reach our full $50,000 goal.
See how far we've gotten and how you can set up a one-time or recurring donation, of any amount, here:
Why Is This Dashboard Necessary?
Whereas the WHO uses a three-tier system for counting and reporting Covid-19 cases (suspected, probable, and confirmed), with only the “confirmed” tier relying on laboratory test results to confirm the presence of the virus, Brazil uses a two-tier system, counting only suspected and confirmed cases, but including only confirmed cases on public dashboards. Since at most 1 in 10 cases is actually tested for in Brazil, and this rate is lower in favelas (which have 30 times more cases than officially registered), the policy of only showing confirmed cases on public dashboards puts the public at grave risk due to lack of information to make sound decisions. Brazilian authorities are also discouraging the counting of deaths among those with comorbidities as Covid-19 even if the immediate cause of death was Covid-19. This situation is particularly grave in favelas. One recent study in just four favelas projected that 90,200 people had been infected who never appeared on public dashboards.
On top of these significant issues, nowhere is the city of Rio de Janeiro collecting information by favela, even though 24% of the city’s population lives in some 1000 favela neighborhoods, at a much greater risk of contagion than other areas of the city due to a long list of factors: historic public sector neglect, insufficient water supplies, limited resources, dense living conditions, poor access to information, the inability to forego work, insufficient access to testing and medical care, high comorbidity, among others.
Even with extreme underreporting, Brazil is today the second country with the most confirmed Covid-19 cases and also confirmed deaths. Rio de Janeiro is second only to São Paulo as Brazil’s hotspot of Covid-19 deaths, but Rio’s death rate is significantly higher than São Paulo’s.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s leadership has downplayed the pandemic and responded inadequately. Insufficient and tardy economic support has made it impossible for most favela residents to self-isolate. Many—beginning with national and local authorities—are relying on a misguided concept of herd immunity, even though scientists have made it clear this is not an option for Covid-19 at this stage of the pandemic. Authorities have, despite growing infection rates, reopened the economy, including bars and restaurants.
The result is a crisis, with growing spread yet no real sense of how grave the situation is or where the hotspots are.