In the department of living, and in the project (finally!)
05.06.2008 15 °C
Sorry for the lack of bloggage in the last week, partly because last week saw a step change from a touristy life-style in the hostal to deciding to get a place here and attempt to get some work done!
The apartment I´m living in is on Defensa and Independencia, which if you don´t know BsAs is about 7 blocks from Plaza de Mayo, the centre of all things BsAs. I´m living with a really, really lovely Spanish couple (Raul and Carmen), who don´t speak much English which, obviously, means good things for my Spanish. I have a pretty big room actually, with a nice comfy bed and lots of light, and we also have a little kitchen and a living room and the whole flat has lots of sweet old fashioned furniture. It´s so nice to have a place of my own, rather than sharing my room with 5 other random people and having to keep my stuff in a locker, plus I´ve also got a place to get some work done. I bought myself a cafetiere and have unholy amounts of coffee and type away on my little laptop in relative comfort - wish I could find some English Breakfast tea though!
On the project front, I first wrote up the information I (didn´t) have from the BsAs Province ministry of health. I say didn´t, because it shows hospital discharges, which doesn´t tell you anything about actual rates of disease, it just shows you how many people went to hospital with whatever disease. To exemplify how this distorts the information one gets:
In 2005 (the year for which I have the data), the population north of Buenos Aires, in the rather attractive Tigre and San Isidro municipalities, had a higher rate of hospital discharges for Diarrhoeal/Vomiting diseases than the areas south of Buenos Aires. In the areas south, not only are the population much poorer, but also they are living at the edges of the most polluted river in Buenos Aires. So why is the hospital discharge rate higher in the north? Most likely it´s because in the north the people are richer, and can afford to go to hospital. In the south, where health coverage through socially funded or privately funded plans is poor, they don´t go to hospital, but that doesn´t mean they haven´t any water-borne disease problems.
It´s the lack of useful data which I think is perhaps the most telling thing about the situation of poverty and basic facilities here (water/sanitation, for example). I had been obsessing about how privatisation had wrecked things - and don´t get me wrong, I still think it´s a rubbish policy - but I think the real problem is the lack of prioritisation of the living conditions of these people who live in shacks made of corrugated iron and have to spray sewage down the street with hoses, who are too scared for their safety to dispose of trash properly so chuck it out of the window on to the river bank. Instead of privatisation being the cause of this kind of problem, it´s a symptom of a general lack of interest on the part of the authorities - reflected in the abysmal regulation of water quality, the poor investment, the underspending of the budget assigned to clean up the Rio Riachuelo, and the lack of data collection about the effect of water/sanitation policy on health. The latter is the most telling because you can´t tell how good a policy is unless you actually collect information about its effects.
I also managed to finally get to talk to a rep from an organisation here yesterday, which was really interesting. Plus, she gave me a mound of really interesting and useful information (including some really beautifully produced books), which was really kind. I´m not sure my essay will be quite as attractive!
Unfortunately, I´ve not really done very much touristy stuff to report back - apart from visiting cafe tortoni http://www.cafetortoni.com.ar for a hot chocolate and churros. Pricey, but oh.so.good. Churros, by the way, are like donuts, but straight instead of round. Rather odd!
Anyway, I´d best go make some phone calls (people don´t respond to e-mail here, it has to be the scary telephone experience which is a bit nightmarish because people tend to talk five times faster on the phone!). Also, some really, really awful music has just started playing in the internet cafe (Lady in Red, to be exact!)
Will be in touch soon!