FAVELA DA ROCINHA, Brazil --- Promptly at 7 am, on the third day of his mission to the Rio+20 conference, UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin set out in another direction. At the invitation of the Minister of Health of Brazil, Dr. Alexandre Padilha, he toured a health clinic in Favela da Rocinha, one of the largest slums of South America.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan was part of the tour to learn more about providing health services under challenging circumstances.
More than 70,000 people are believed to live in the dense neighbourhood of simple brick buildings and wooden shanties perched on steep slopes overlooking more prosperous parts of the city, just a kilometre or so from Rio’s famed beaches. Although life is far from easy in Rocinha, services and infrastructure have developed there in recent years to meet the needs of the growing population.
Minister Padilha talked about the many free services available to the population at the favela including primary, secondary and emergency care. In the Health Complex of Rocinha, patients also have access to free lab tests and medicines.
The Complex provides a humanized approach to services, which includes psychological and social services, Dr. Pahilha explained. One example is a painting workshop, where patients can meet and express themselves through the arts. The paintings made by them decorate the health centre.
UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, praised the Brazilian minister for the advances achieved at Rocinha. “Health and rights are at the core of sustainability. We cannot promote sustainable development without promoting the health and, especially, the reproductive health and rights of women, girls and young people,” he said.
Dr. Osotimehin also expressed his expectations regarding a closer partnership with the Ministry of Health of Brazil to promote more access to reproductive health in the country. “We are going to work together with the government to make sure that all women, especially the young ones, enjoy their right to a healthy life.” Minister Padilha and Dr. Osotimehin agreed to work together to reach MDG5 and reduce the high rate of teen pregnancy in Brazil.
Rapid urbanization is expected to transform the developing world over the next few decades, and Rocinha is a good example of the challenges and opportunities this demographic wave will present.