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  • Poverty is on the rise in Brazil.

    Poverty is on the rise in Brazil. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 July 2018

“The sum of our experience indicates that extreme poverty numbers are similar to famine numbers,” said economist Francisco Menezes.

In July last year, 20 civil society organizations published a joint report warning about the risk of Brazil being re-listed on the UN Hunger Map. Its removal from the directory in 2014 was the direct result of social policies implemented during the administrations of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff.

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Francisco Menezes, an economist and researcher at the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (Ibase) and ActionAid Brasil, was part of the team that published the original report. He emphasized that an updated report will be released at the end of this month and “our warning is that it is almost certain” that the country will be re-listed on the UN World Hunger Map.

“The sum of our experience indicates that extreme poverty numbers are similar to famine numbers.”

A study undertaken by ActionAid Brasil reveals that in the last three years (2015 – 2017) the South American country has regressed to levels 12 years ago in terms of people living in extreme poverty. Otherwise, more than ten million people in Brazil are living in such conditions, according to the Instituto Humanitas Unisinos.

“This leads us to believe that the correlation, poverty versus hunger, strongly suggests that we are already, at this very moment, in bad situation,” Menezes said. He added that this reality “should appear on the Family Budget Survey (POF) data at the end of 2018.”

Menezes stressed that “last year we warned the U.N. that if Brazil proceeds along the most recent path it has taken, with a certain abandonment of social protection policies, it runs the risk of returning to the Hunger Map, which it was taken off in 2014.” He pinpointed that what had been suggested in last year's report will be confirmed in the updated report at the end of the month.

When asked how to explain the fact that people go hungry in Brazil, despite it being one of the largest food producing countries, Menezes responded that the problem is “severe inequality, including in rural areas.”

He also pointed to the fact that the senate-imposed presidency of Michel Temer had removed 1.5 million people from the Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) program.

Launched in 2003 during Lula's first presidential term, the Family Grant provides stipends to families living below the poverty line. In turn, those families must prove that their children are attending school and have been vaccinated. It was just one of several national programs that helped lift millions of Brazilians out of poverty and remove the country from the U.N. World Hunger Map.

When the World Food Program hailed the country as a champion in the fight against hunger, former Social Development Minister Tereza Campello said, “leaving the Hunger Map is a historic milestone for Brazil." 

"We are very proud because overcoming hunger was a priority for the Brazilian state," she added.


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