Residents of communities in Rio de Janeiro that are subject to violence provoked by state agents are more likely to become ill and be prevented from accessing health services. This is the conclusion of an unprecedented survey carried out by the Center for Studies on Security and Citizenship (CESeC). The “Saúde na Linha de Tiro” survey spoke to 1,500 residents of six socioeconomically similar communities in Rio de Janeiro, but exposed to different levels of armed violence.
The communities were divided into two groups: three of them frequently affected by shootings with the presence of security agents in 2019 and another three that are not affected by the same type of violence, according to data from the Fogo Cruzado Institute. The numbers show that the fear generated by police operations harms the physical and mental health of those who live in these places in the short and long term.
More than half (59.5%) of the residents of the three communities ended up developing problems such as hypertension, insomnia, anxiety or depression. Érica Lima, a 42-year-old manicurist, lives in Complexo da Maré, in the northern part of the city, and says that she had several health problems after having two of her three children executed in police operations.
“People say they heard my son’s screams asking for help and to help him. The police came out of the ‘caveirão’ and shot my son twice in the chest and killed my son there. Nowadays I have depression, I have high blood pressure, I’m pre-diabetic, I take a lot of medication and every month I have to go to the hospital for treatment,” she says.
Érica says she is afraid every day, not only for herself, but for her entire family. “I’m afraid because I have a 23-year-old son, my son is a worker, but they don’t want to know if he’s a worker or not. My son leaves at 7 am for work, he works every other day. days there was an operation that started at 1:30 in the morning, they came in out of nowhere shooting. It’s complicated”.
The research also showed that almost a third (26.5%) of residents of the most affected communities have already postponed the search for a health service, against only 5.9% of those residing in communities without shootings. In addition, residents of communities exposed to violence have a 42% higher risk of developing hypertension when compared to the group of residents of less affected locations.
The project’s research coordinator, Rachel Machado, explains that with the results of the research it is possible to make an assessment of how the policy of violence adopted by State agents is, in addition to being ineffective, harmful.
“The State proposing to combat trafficking generates more impacts and does not reduce the circulation of drugs, does not weaken drug trafficking, does not have a substantial result and, on the other hand, causes pain, suffering, makes people sick and kills”, he says.
For Rachel, it’s past time to end the false assumption that community residents end up getting used to violence. “Different from what many people say that favela residents get used to, develop resilience, the survey showed that this is not the case. More than 30% of residents in these areas reported experiencing lack of sleep, sweating, insomnia and difficulty sleeping. More than 40 % reported feeling their heart racing because of this shooting routine”, explains the coordinator.
The research also shows economic losses that the so-called “war on drugs” produces. Adding up the residents of the three communities, the damage to the population reaches R$ 1 million, as people end up prevented from carrying out their activities. There is also a cost of more than 300,000 to public coffers due to the interruption of basic health units in the three communities susceptible to violence studied in the survey.
Source: BdF Rio de Janeiro
Editing: Mariana Pitasse