Information and news on Brazil

COVID-19 in Brazil
Brazil, the largest South American nation, recently recorded 100,000 casualties from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The country now has the second-highest figure of deaths linked to COVID-19. They come after the United States, which has over 150,000 casualties as of August 2020. President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the effects of the virus out of concern for the nation’s economy. However, physicians working in the Brazilian Ministry of Health debated with him over the effects of social distancing. They also debated over the use of the controversial hydroxychloroquine on ill patients. Unable to come to an agreement with Bolsonaro, both ministers resigned from their position.

With conflicting views among Brazilian leaders on how to contain the virus, concerns start to rise. These concerns are about plans to mitigate the disease in Brazil, or the lack thereof. As the numbers increase, other leaders around the world have taken the initiative to halt the coronavirus’ spread in Brazil.

Environmental Activist Greta Thunberg’s Contribution

Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teenage activist prominent for mobilizing youth all over the world around the cause of global warming. She is donating $114,000 of prize money she received directly to efforts mitigating the coronavirus outbreak in the Amazon. She plans to send it to SOS Amazônia, a nongovernmental organization focused on protecting the Amazon rainforest. It also focuses on providing access to food, healthcare and hygiene to indigenous communities in the most vulnerable regions. This is not the first time Thunberg has contributed financially to weather the effects of the pandemic. In May 2020, she donated an additional $100,000 of the award money to UNICEF to protect children from the coronavirus. By aiding Brazilians’ fight against COVID-19, she hopes to bring awareness to people on the front lines affected by the climate crisis. This particularly applies to people in the global South.

Taiwan’s Efforts

The East Asian nation had a quick reduction of the virus during the early stages of the pandemic. It is also stepping in to contribute supplies in Brazil’s battle with the disease. Tsung-che Chiang, the nation’s representative to Brazil, donated 100,000 face masks to the residents of Manaus, a city suffering one of the biggest outbreaks of COVID-19 in Brazil. The masks will be sent by the Taiwanese government and distributed by the Manaus health department to public hospitals. This will protect medical personnel in the front lines of the virus’s battlegrounds. After Brazil, Taiwan has expressed interest in providing aid to other countries with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, under the Taiwan Can Help program.

Help from the Vatican

Vatican became aware of the lack of supplies in a hospital treating indigenous patients with COVID-19 in Brazil. As a result, Pope Francis sent a temperature gauge and respirator to the Campanha de Maraba Hospital that the apostolic nunciature in Brazil delivered. President Bolsonaro vetoed a law that would have provided indigenous populations with extra supplies and hospital beds due to their vulnerability to the virus. Because of this, the hospital was very much in need of the supplies. Pope Francis’ expressed affection for the Amazon made this contribution even more significant to the community near the hospital, which is predominantly Catholic. Including the aforementioned respirator, Brazil received three other respirators from the Vatican to subdue the spread of COVID-19 in Brazil.

Although the coronavirus’s presence in Brazil shows no sign of ending, neither have the efforts of leaders across the world. Numerous nations and authoritative figures donate their time and money to afflicted regions and organizations. Their efforts go toward organizations that provide much-needed aid to marginalized communities suffering from the virus. Once a unanimously-agreed-upon plan is formulated by the Brazilian government, a decline can be seen in the number of COVID-19 cases and casualties in South America’s largest nation.

Faven Woldetatyos
Photo: Flickr

Correlation Between Disability And Poverty
In many countries, disabled individuals are marginalized and given access to fewer resources when compared to their abled counterparts. When it comes to global poverty, it is crucial to understand the inequity placed upon disabled communities as they are one of the most discriminated against groups, especially in impoverished areas. Disabled communities are also more susceptible to the risks and dangers of the coronavirus and have limited access to safe care.

A Need for Accessibility

In countries such as China and Brazil, there is an 80% positive correlation between disability and global poverty. Currently, more than 85 million people are disabled in China yet are lacking medical resources, especially in rural areas. Poor infrastructure such as narrow sidewalks or overcrowded buildings hamper easy movement for people with disabilities. In China, over 300 disabled persons have co-signed a letter in allowing online maps to locate certain ramps or “barrier-free facilities” to create better mobility for these communities.

With such efforts, however, a few improvements have been made to provide equitable opportunities for the disabled. As of now, over 1,500 local governments in China have added barrier-free facilities—such as ramps, wider sidewalks, and lifts. This allowed more than 147,000 families, primarily from low-income households, to access certain facilities once inconvenient for disabled people. Consequently, more strides have been made on a digital platform, such as providing consultations for disabled communities that are limited in resources.

Human Rights Violation in Institutions

Similar to China, Brazil has previously overlooked the quality of life for its disabled population, especially in care homes with very poor conditions. In 2018, the Human Rights Watch made it a priority for Brazil to provide better care options for people with disabilities who are otherwise confined to poorly run institutions. Many of these institutions were barely even providing basic necessities to residents, such as food and hygiene care. There were no opportunities for social enrichment or personal advancement.

“Conditions are often inhumane, with dozens of people crammed into rooms filled with beds packed tightly together,” the Human Rights Watch report concluded. After interviewing over 171 disabled people living in these institutions, it was clear that improving conditions in these facilities was imperative to better quality of life for disabled residents.

However, the Brazilian government is taking multiple actions to protect their disabled population from inadequate care in these institutions. In 2015, Brazil passed a bill that has been in the works since 2003: the Inclusion of People With Disabilities Act. This bill provides clearer definitions for classifying people with disabilities, as well as allocating more resources for the disabled population. For example, at least three percent of public housing, 10 percent of taxi grants, and two percent of parking lots will be reserved for people with disabilities.

Raising Awareness and Providing Aid

Aside from China and Brazil’s strong correlations between disability and poverty, disabled communities are universally more disadvantaged and vulnerable to a lower-income status. However, many countries are dedicated to raising awareness about the intersectionality between disability and socioeconomic status. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been ratified in at least 177 countries and has subsequently led these countries in allocating aid for people with disabilities. Along with the convention, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made a universal framework that provides guidelines for protecting disabled persons from discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and the workplace.

Smaller organizations have also taken on roles to improve the socioeconomic status of the disabled community. For example, the Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) International is an NGO organization that provides job opportunities, healthcare, and education for people with a range of disabilities. Since 1908, this organization has supported at least 672 projects across 68 countries and eventually provided resources to over 10.1 million people. Another example is the Emergency Ong Onlus, an Italian foundation that has reached over 16 million people across 16 countries with free medical care. Primarily specializing in humanitarian relief, the foundation focuses on four intervention areas: surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and social reintegration.

Issues regarding disabled victims of poverty are often neglected and met with discrimination in many countries, including the United States. However, numbers of organizations and local projects are strenuously putting effort into resolving this ongoing humanitarian problem. With the current mass mobilization, there is definite hope in the future of providing equitable opportunities to one of the most vulnerable communities.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

 

Immigration Reform in BrazilAccording to Brazilian law, immigrants are guaranteed the same basic rights as citizens regardless of their status. However, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many shortcomings of Brazil’s legal system. Many immigrants were forced into insecure situations that have put their well-being at risk. The exacerbated vulnerability of many immigrants caused by COVID-19 has spurred a new social movement, Regularização Já (Regularization Now). The movement pushes for immigration reform in Brazil in the midst of the pandemic.

Immigrants in Brazil: A Particularly Vulnerable Population

As the virus continues to spread in Brazil, immigrants constitute one of the most at-risk groups. In their policy brief covering COVID-19 as it relates to migrants, the U.N. mentions three interlocking crises that contribute to the particularly precarious position of migrants:

  1. A health crisis: Many migrants have limited or nonexistent access to health services due to legal, cultural or language barriers.
  2. A socioeconomic crisis: Migrants working in the informal sector do not have access to social protection measures such as unemployment or stimulus checks.
  3. A protection crisis: As countries close their borders to contain the spread of COVID-19, many migrants remain in dangerous situations with little agency to move somewhere safer. Furthermore, asylum-seekers and refugees may have to return to unsafe situations in their countries of origin.

Immigrants in Brazil are particularly vulnerable due to the worsening health crisis within the country. As of July 24, 2020, Brazil was the second hardest-hit country in the world in terms of COVID-19 with a staggering 2.3 million confirmed cases and more than 85,000 deaths. Another factor that leaves immigrants to Brazil in a precarious position is the age demographic of the immigrant population. In contrast to other countries experiencing high numbers of coronavirus cases, Brazil’s immigrant population has a greater proportion of elderly people. In general, 9.3% of Brazil’s population are 65-years-old or older. 21.4% of the country’s immigrant population is in the same age range. The demographics of the immigrant population, combined with the country’s public health crisis, exacerbate immigrant vulnerabilities throughout Brazil.

COVID-19 and Immigration

Like many countries, Brazil has enacted ordinances to restrict movement across borders to contain COVID-19. There are exemptions in place for immigrants related to Brazilian citizens, those with authorization to reside in Brazil for a fixed or indefinite term and those who hold a National Migration Registry Card. However, in March the government paused the issuance of National Migration Registry Cards as well as the processing of asylum applications for the duration of the public health crisis.

The Brazilian federal government made monthly relief checks available to unemployed people and workers in the informal sector. However, banks have unlawfully requested immigrants to provide supporting documents such as proof of residence to collect them. Additionally, many immigrants without legal status do not have bank accounts where the checks could be deposited. As a result, many immigrants in Brazil exist in a limbo-like state without access to federal aid and without the freedom to leave the country to safer, more financially viable situations.

The Movement Towards Regularization

Several countries granted migrants temporary residence status and access to healthcare for the duration of the pandemic. These protections would likely disappear after the public health emergency ends. However, civil society groups and activists in Brazil claim that this is not enough. They feel their country must move beyond temporary fixes for an ongoing problem. Instead, many are pushing for a bill that would grant regularization to all immigrants in Brazil, effectively bringing full immigration reform to Brazil.

This bill would give all immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, residency for up to two years. It would also provide the possibility of renewal for an indefinite amount of time. Federal agencies have stopped processing most immigration requests as a result of COVID-19. The regularization bill would immediately grant residency to those whose immigration cases are pending or on hold. This bill is particularly important to immigrants struggling amidst the pandemic. The residency would enable broader access to healthcare and social benefits, such as the monthly relief checks from the federal government.

Activism Moving Forward

Activists for the regularization bill face an administration that has demonstrated disregard for migrants’ rights, especially during the pandemic. In spite of this, Brazil has proven that it can implement more progressive immigration policies. Responding to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Brazil leads the way in protecting thousands of displaced people by granting them refugee status.

The COVID-19 pandemic moved activists to push for this same level of care to be given to immigrants already within the country. Should the regularization bill pass, current immigrants would benefit from improved access to public resources. The bill would also set the scene for the ongoing support of future immigrant populations and immigration reform in Brazil.

– Alanna Jaffee
Photo: USAID

free dental careBrazilian Dentist Felipe Rossi travels to impoverished communities in Brazil and East Africa to provide them with free dental care. His services range from simple cleanings to root canals. In total, he has helped more than 12,000 people over a period of three years. Rossi’s work first drew attention on Instagram, where he showcases before and after pictures of his clients after fixing their teeth. Through his work, Rossi is combating the harsh effects of global poverty by providing people with access to valuable treatments that can improve their quality of life.

Dental Care in Brazil: The Statistics

In 2003, 45% of Brazilian citizens did not have access to such basic dental care as a toothbrush. In 2004, Brazil attempted to combat this issue through the Brazil Sorridente Program, which provided education and resources in order to promote oral health. The government also sponsored other programs to reduce the impacts of poverty that led to this lack of access to dental care. In some public restrooms, the government has even installed dental floss dispensers. However, as of 2017, 7.4% of Brazil’s population continues to live in poverty. These Brazilians still lack access to proper dental care, despite repeated attempts by the government to enforce hygienic practices.

Due to growing economic and social divisions in Brazil, including geographical barriers and gaps in healthcare coverage, 13% of Brazilian adolescents have never been to the dentist. Most dentists in Brazil are concentrated in select areas, despite a large demand for dental care in low-income areas. As a result, those without access to proper, free dental care are at risk of oral diseases and infections and may suffer from severe self-esteem issues.

Por1sorriso

Rossi, 38, reaches a wide audience through his non-profit, Por1sorriso. Through this organization, Rossi has provided free dental care in countries outside of Brazil such as Mozambique and Kenya, which also have limited access to medicine and proper dental care.  Popular toothpaste brand Colgate sponsors many of his trips. Rossi is also funded by smaller donations from the Smile Solidarity Program, founded in 2003 by the American Dentistry Association. With 4,000 volunteers and 1,500 procedures performed, Rossi and his nonprofit don’t plan to stop providing aid anytime soon.

Felipe Rossi’s Impact

When asked about his work in an interview with the Daily Mail, Rossi said that he “[doesn’t] do dentistry to take care of teeth but to take care of people.” His goal is to give all of his clients a better and healthier smile, and he hopes that his message of spreading love will connect and empower others. While his generosity has had a huge impact on the world’s poor, it is his social media presence that has garnered worldwide recognition. Each of his Instagram posts reveal a clear difference in clients’ smiles before and after treatment, which demonstrates the impact that free dental care has on impoverished communities. What’s more, in every post, the patients are noticeably happier in the after photo, all because of Rossi’s work. Rossi isn’t motivated by fame or money — only by a desire to help bridge the socioeconomic gaps that prevent people from getting access to the dental care that they need.

Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Flickr

Brazil’s Covid-19 Response
As the largest nation in South America and also one of the poorest, Brazil remains vulnerable to the health and socioeconomic implications of COVID-19. With 55 million of it’s 210 million citizens living in poverty and 85% living in urban areas, international support for Brazil’s COVID-19 response is particularly important. In just four months, nearly 2 million people contracted the disease, resulting in over 72,000 deaths.

The proportion of Brazilians covered by family health teams increased from 17.4% in 2000 to 63.7% in 2015. However, the low doctor-to-patient ratio of only 0.02% and the stagnant 8.4% expenditure of the GDP on healthcare contribute to many Brazilians lacking access to treatment. This issue has only been exacerbated by the additional strain the pandemic has placed on the healthcare system. As of July 15, the U.S. Department of State and USAID have directed $1.5 billion towards the global COVID-19 response. Of that, USAID is supporting Brazil’s COVID-19 response with $12.5 million.

How USAID is Supporting Brazil’s COVID-19 Response

  1. Ventilators: In May, the U.S. committed to delivering 1,000 ventilators to the people of Brazil. These machines, ranging in price from $5,000 to $50,000, will save Brazil millions of dollars in healthcare-related equipment expenditures as the spread of COVID-19 continues. The novel virus attacks the body’s respiratory system, often causing difficulty breathing or respiratory failure. USAID is improving Brazil’s COVID-19 response with these life-saving machines. The aid will ensure that hospitals do not turn away patients due to a shortage of medical supplies.While ventilators do not stop the spread of COVID-19, they are helping some of the sickest Brazilian patients recover. A New England Journal of Medicine study found that 50% of COVID-19 patients who require a ventilator eventually die from the disease. However, patients spend an average of 10 days on a ventilator. This means that if 1,000 new ventilators are available in Brazil, in three months of use, 4,500 people who would have died without a ventilator will likely survive.
  2. Hygiene and Sanitization: By May, the CDC had provided $3 million in Brazilian COVID-19 response funding. The funds are used to improve data collection in order to identify cases, contact trace and pinpoint areas of high transmission rates. On May 29, when new cases were steadily increasing, USAID announced it would provide $6 million in assistance to Brazil. Part of this funding was directed towards improved sanitation and hygiene in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Brazil is now able to better distribute government-subsidized masks, hand sanitizer and other hygiene-related materials. As a result, the country has more effectively controlled the spread of COVID-19 and has not experienced a record high daily case influx since June.
  3. Food and Water: In March, Brazil’s unemployment rate rose to 12.6% from an average of 12% in 2019. The jump left approximately 5 million more Brazilians unemployed at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. With the heightened financial crisis, many of the 38 million once-employed Brazilians lost their jobs and in turn lost the purchasing power to feed their families. As part of the United States’ July commitment to provide $1.5 billion in foreign aid relief for COVID-19, $20 million has been directed towards food and water aid. It is uncertain how much of the money will fund hunger relief within Brazil’s COVID-19 response. Nevertheless, the United States’ step to dedicate funding for food and water provides some hope for Brazilians facing hunger.
  4. Refugee and Vulnerable Populations: In addition to the growing prevalence of poverty and unemployment in Brazil, the estimated 253,500 Venezuelan migrants and refugees within Brazil are struggling. Fortunately, these Venezuelans, who flooded Brazil at the highest rate in South America, have access to hospital treatment. Though, a lack of financial opportunity during COVID-19 has created disproportionate homelessness and hunger for the refugees. In response, USAID is providing over $12.4 million to support two NGOs in Brazil. These NGOs provide emergency shelter, food and nutritional assistance exclusively to vulnerable populations within Brazil. Such populations include low-income and rural residents in the Amazonian region and Venezuelan migrants.
  5. Grants and Incentives for the Private Sector: USAID is also improving Brazil’s COVID-19 response by creating incentives for private sector involvement. In May, $75,000 in grants were issued to former Brazilian USG exchange program participants to fund 40 COVID-19 relief projects. These grassroots projects work to educate Brazilian communities about the pandemic. The efforts dispel misinformation about the virus and address the socioeconomic implications of it, such as increased rates of domestic violence during the quarantine. USAID has mobilized a small population of the private sector in Brazil, strengthening the effects of the over $40 million in Brazilian COVID-19 relief derived from the United States’ domestic private sector.

USAID, along with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State, is improving Brazil’s COVID-19 response by financially prioritizing medical intervention, mitigation efforts, humanitarian aid and education regarding the virus. Although COVID-19 remains an issue, the nation is better equipped with tools to slow the spread of the virus and handle any negative effects of it.

Caledonia Strelow
Photo: Flickr

B Corporation

B Corporations are businesses that give back to the community by following a set of guidelines for transparency, accountability and that pledge a certain amount of profits for a greater purpose.

Five B Corporations You Should Know

  1. Salt Spring Coffee, Canada
    B Impact Score: 118.4/200
    Salt Spring Coffee is a fair-trade organic coffee company that works with the Nicaraguan farmers to sustainably farm, sell and serve the highest grade of coffee beans on the market. Salt Spring hopes to pave the way for the coffee industry in producing eco-friendly packaging and contributing meaningful donations. The company does this by donating to innovative, eco-conscious projects through their 1% for the Planet fund.  These donations have allowed the company to co-found a Canadian waste-reduction initiative, help install solar panels for isolated Nicaraguan farmers and assist a women-run Ugandan farming co-op.
  2. Hora Salud, Chilé
    B Impact Score: 117.8/200
    Hora Salud is a simple user-friendly app for the rural Chilean populace that allows individuals to schedule and cancel appointments and check-ups online without wasting time. The app uses SMS to schedule and cancel doctors appointments. This allows already-sick individuals to avoid the burden of traveling to a Health Center and waiting in line for hours to book an appointment. Hora Salud may also be used in tandem with other markets to spread relevant information including weather, national emergencies and public policies. Their mission is to “Improve the quality of people’s lives, optimize service delivery and decision making with reliable and quality data.” As one of many B Corporations, Hora Salud promotes healthy business practices and opportunities for rural Chilean people.
  3. BioCarbon Partners, Zambia
    B Impact Score: 177.3/200
    BioCarbon Partners (BCP) operates in and outside of Zambia to offset carbon emissions in the atmosphere by sponsoring payment for eco-friendly business operations. BCP is an African leader in the reforestation carbon offset program. With a mission to “Make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people,” BCP is cultivating an ecosystem that protects one of Africa’s largest migration sanctuaries. The company prioritizes community engagement and partnership to incentivize forest protection through long-term habitat protection agreements. BCP calculates the amount of carbon that is not released into the atmosphere due to its project and generates sales of these forest carbon offsets through independent external auditors. BCP then reinvests this revenue into conservation and development projects in local communities that rely on wildlife habitat for income. BCP has created 87 jobs for Zambians and continues to create opportunities for wildlife and humanity alike.
  4. Avante, Brazil
    B Impact Score: 136.1/200
    Avante is the largest benefactor of small businesses in Brazil with more than $200 million invested to serve “micro-companies” that are typically pushed out of the financial industry. Avante functions as a non-conventional financial technology service that uniquely combines credit, insurance and payments. It is currently the largest MFI in Brazil. Avante’s mission is to “humanize financial services,” through a combination of empowerment, ethical business practices and acknowledgment that small businesses are the foundation of a strong economy.
  5. Alma Natura, Spain
    B Impact Score: 153.8/200
    Alma Natura established B Corporation status in 2013 to give back to the Sierra de Huelva community of Spain. The first institution of the business began as a nonprofit. It eventually evolved into a limited partnership as Alma Natura continued to invest in rural businesses, guiding them towards a more sustainable and ethical future. With their increased profits, Alma Natura gave back by funding education, technological development and sanitation, ensuring financial equality and sustainable practices in towns with less government funding. Not only has Alma Natura functioned as a business consultant to guide rural communities towards a more equitable economic future, but their commitment to preserving the planet and providing care and education to disadvantaged agricultural centers places their ranking high among businesses that take responsibility for the betterment of humanity.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay


Brazil has experienced urbanization and subsequent economic growth in recent decades, as suggested by its annual GDP growth. However, residents of Brazilian slums, located in the outskirts of urban hotspots, are continuously marginalized.  These slums are known as favelas, with impoverished populations passing 1.5 million in the greater São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro areas. Characterized by high drug-related violence rates, poor infrastructure and lack of opportunities for socio-economic mobility, children of favelas are especially vulnerable to dire living conditions. In particular, favelas struggle to offer quality public education that allows children the opportunity to break away from the poverty cycle. Recent civil society initiatives that support favela children work to combat the root causes of persistent poverty by offering safe spaces and incentivizing further education.

Favela Children and Education

In comparison to students from wealthier communities, most of whom are able to access the country’s superior private system, favela children experience failure rates by third grade over seven times higher than their wealthier peers. Moreover, lack of incentives to pursue education contributes to higher dropout rates. Rather than graduate high school and settle for an average weekly salary of 950 BRL ($177 USD), some favela children end up joining drug gangs in the pursuit of making a sufficient income.

For the many children in favelas who do wish to attend school, violence on the streets between drug factions and police has proven to be a disruptive barrier. When crime makes it too dangerous for children to go to class, school is canceled.  Moreover, trauma due to widespread armed violence negatively affects children’s abilities to effectively learn.

Two Brazilian Initiatives That Support Favela Children

EduMais is a Rio de Janeiro-based NGO offering a variety of free after-school educational programs, ranging from English to web and game design. The diverse subjects offered, allow children to engage in extracurricular classes relevant to their interests, and each program incorporates favela-specific methodologies to best ensure enthusiasm and commitment. For example, “positive discipline” avoids punishment and instead adapts children to a classroom by having them help create rules at the beginning of the year. A trauma-sensitive approach ensures that lesson plans are catered toward children’s cognitive abilities. In addition, children enrolled in after-school programs remain in a healthy environment off the streets, and are therefore less likely to use drugs or fail out of school. EduMais encourages its students to value education as an important curiosity that remains useful beyond the classroom setting, and into adulthood.

Favela INC teaches English and business courses to adolescents living in the favela of Vidigal, located in southern Rio de Janeiro. Recognizing the region’s lack of entrepreneurial education opportunities, which contributes to residents’ limited abilities to achieve socio-economic mobility, the organization offers young residents free teaching and mentorship programs.  The programs seek to foster well-rounded students ready to face the business world by focusing on four core areas: project planning, financial literacy, digital marketing and personal development.  These programs offer students the tools, resources and newfound entrepreneurial spirit to transform their favelas’ economic and cultural ecosystems. Additionally, Favela INC aims to incentivize its students to pursue higher education after schooling, as only 1-3% of favela residents currently hold a university degree. Students are also connected to networks that they would not have been able to attain without the program, leading to a greater number of job opportunities moving forward.

Looking Forward

The historical exclusion of favela residents, as evidenced by the slums’ lack of quality education and widespread drug violence, has prevented many individuals from being able to escape from impoverished conditions. The grassroots initiatives of Favela INC and EduMais in Brazil’s favelas support favela children by providing educational opportunities, incentivizing and inspiring a passion for learning and offering the learned tools to succeed in the 21st-century job market. Through the power of education, community-based teaching aims to alleviate economic insecurity for the next generation of favela adults and tackle Brazil’s root causes of widespread poverty.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19COVID-19 has decimated the people of Brazil as 15,000 to 30,000 new cases are reported daily. As of July 31, 2020, the country had 2,625,612 confirmed cases and 91,607 deaths. The pandemic can be traced back to the wealthy but has now trickled down into the country’s most at-risk communities. These communities are the indigenous and homeless populations and those living in favelas and slums. Furthermore, Brazil’s medical system is at capacity as nearly 100 nurses succumb to COVID-19 per day. With such dire circumstances, residents of favelas have mobilized to combat the virus themselves.

Brazil’s Viral Epicenter

Favelas became epicenters for COVID-19. The number of infected individuals is 17% of the inhabits in favelas are infected in relation to 7.5% in the entire city. Data shows that the most at risk are those of ethnic minority groups. Sao Paulo’s municipal government data states that 62% of black Brazilians are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than white Brazilians. According to the Ministry of Health, one out of three deceased has been from a population of color.

Gang-Enforced Curfews

Rampant gang warfare is well-known in favelas. However, favela residents initially stuck to social distancing guidelines due to local drug gangs imposed curfews in some settlements as well. In Rocinha, residents feared death threats as a result of violating curfew. In another favela, gangs enforced a strict 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. curfew for nearly a month.

Also, gangs have used a variety of methods to spread the news of these lockdowns. Large posters, social media and public announcements made through megaphones atop moving cars have been their delivery method. They even boldly proclaimed that if the government does not have the capacity to fix it, organized crime will solve it. Favela gangs are the first to know about what happens inside these settlements and often make decisions regarding any actions taken.

Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the former health minister, even recommended that authorities have an open discourse with gangs to quell the outbreak within the various favelas. However, removing Mandetta from his position led to his recommendation never coming into effect.

Favelas Unite to Fight COVID-19

In Brazil, 13 million people inhabit favelas across the country. They are unable to handle self-isolation or maintain proper sanitary standards needed to halt the spread of COVID-19. However, residents throughout the various favelas have made notable efforts to fight back.

Paraisopolis is the second biggest favela in Sao Paolo. It has taken on a local production of face masks, the distribution of food rations and hygiene supplies to aid residents. Two makeshift sick wards have opened for those who might be a carrier. For two weeks, 300 residents used the facilities for isolation.

Furthermore, favelas have even organized ambulances to respond to emergencies with doctors, and three have been hired in Paraisopolis. When the municipal government failed to help, proceeds came from donations and crowdsourcing efforts.

Additionally, around 100,000 people live within Rocinha, yet 1 out of 4 tested positive for COVID-19. Rocinha is the largest favela in the country and it is located in Rio de Janeiro. Further outreach efforts via campaigns to inform the denizens of risks associated with COVID-19 continue.

 

From daycares to financial aid for children to study, the favelas are reacting in solidarity to the outbreak. These initiatives taken by Brazil’s most impoverished population are a stark contrast to the official response from municipal governments across the country. A bold, yet critical, move to combat the pandemic.

 

Michael Santiago
Photo: Flickr

Children within Brazil’s low-income slums, or “favelas,” are among the country’s most vulnerable. This vulnerability is due to a lack of educational resources or incentives to attend schooling, violent environments and the lack of opportunities for socio-economic growth within favelas. It is estimated that in Rio alone, 240,000 Brazilians live in the dire conditions of favelas.

Favelas and Poverty

Given their marginalization, progress toward achieving socio-economic mobility and employment is far more difficult for children in favelas relative to children of wealthier neighborhoods. They are at a heightened risk of involvement in crime, such as the extensive drug trafficking occurring within these favelas. Child labor within drug operations is a widespread issue affecting homeless and/or orphaned minors living on the outskirts of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Young girls are often swept into the sexual exploitation occurring within the gangs.

In order to combat the injustice and marginalization of the favelas’ youth, civil society groups have recently offered creative endeavors that have proven imperative to restoring hope and sparking change. Dance education in favelas brings Brazil’s impoverished children closer to a sense of purpose and self, by offering an option for physical activity off the streets. In particular, the separate favela dance projects Espaço Aberto and Na Ponta dos Pés have collectively taught thousands of previously disempowered children lessons of resilience and patience in order to progress toward brighter futures.

Espaço Aberto

Opened in 1998, the Rio favela dance school “Espaco Aberto,” meaning “open space,” has the primary mission of spreading joy and inspiring young children and adolescents with the opportunity to dance.

The school mainly teaches ballet, a style typically associated with wealth given its formalities and years of extensive training required to master the art.

The school’s co-founder and dance instructor, Yolanda Demetrio, seeks to unravel and transform disheartening favela stereotypes of indignity and permanent grievance. With professional dance instructors alongside her preaching messages of encouragement and incentive, the past 22 years have seen countless favela residents go on to follow Demetrio’s footsteps— eventually opening their own dance studios and improving their economic circumstances.

However, the school is not meant to lead students to only pursue dance careers, although that may be a feasible result. Rather, Espaco Aberto motivates a historically overlooked population to find the potential within themselves. For example, just two years into dance studies, a young student named Jeferson became inspired by the school’s value of goal-setting. His newfound confidence in his abilities emboldened him to re-enroll in formal school.

Na Ponta Dos Pés

The Na Ponta Dos Pés ballet dance project, translating to “Pointe Break,” is specifically geared towards favela girls in the impoverished Alemao complex located in northern Rio. Professional ballerina Tuany Nascimento began the project in 2012 when she recognized that the daily violence and hardships faced in favelas scar vulnerable children— and particularly girls.

Historically, the more than 60,000 Alemao residents have suffered from the aftermath of poor political decisions, further endangering the community. Prior to 2010, a lack of government authority in the area resulted in the control of drug cartels threatening the security of civilians. Recent years have seen the sudden presence of armed police units with the formal intent to reduce narco-political power, yet it has only contributed to community violence and disorder. As residents are killed by the police and the death toll continues to rise, the violence results in instability. Female victims are disproportionately affected.

Similar to Espaco Aberto, Nascimento also wishes to offer an alternative to those falling victim to, or choosing, a harmful lifestyle.

“People get into crime because they don’t have opportunities, but the ballet project gives them a chance not to fall into the wrong kind of life,” said Nascimento.

The project began in a rented basketball court, safe from outdoor violence. Since then, as more people come to realize the importance of dance education in favelas, the project has received a several thousand-dollar grant to build a proper dance studio. Dance education in favelas inspires girls to imagine their worlds as extending past illegal activity and including endless opportunities. In the vice documentary entitled Ballet and Bullets: Dancing Out of The Favelas, in which Nascimento and her students share their stories, one described her newfound hope and determination.

The student said, “Poor people don’t have a future? No. We’re a lot more than that… Not just because we’re ballet girls. You can do a plié, a grand écart, why can’t you do other things in your life as well?… A black woman can be a businesswoman.”

Overall Impacts of Dance

These two grassroots projects show how dance education can positively impact people living in favelas. Both dance studios emphasize patience, yet inevitable achievement. Newly found confidence in one’s dance capabilities, as in the cases of Jeferson from Espaco Aberto and the student from Na Ponta do Pés, can transform into one’s motivation to achieve improved living conditions through education and hard work. 

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Pixabay

bringing opportunity to Brazil's favelas
Brazilian favelas, or slum neighborhoods, are Brazil’s historically impoverished and overlooked communities. Typically located on the outskirts of the country’s largest cities, the favelas are especially prevalent in the greater São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro areas. An estimated 1.5 million people live in these favelas, lacking proper infrastructure and water systems. Crime and police killings within favelas are rampant, relative to Brazil’s affluent neighborhoods. In addition to favelas’ dangerous and unhygienic conditions, their low-income residents often lack opportunities for socio-economic growth; this is largely due to the neighborhoods’ marginalized nature. Recently, however, organizations throughout the world have brought resources to help people living in the favelas.

5 NGOs Bringing Opportunity to Brazil’s Favelas

  1. The Favela Foundation funds and collaborates with countless educational initiatives throughout Rochina and Rio de Janeiro’s slums. The foundation recognizes the lack of government action, realizing the importance of grassroots initiatives to assist vulnerable youth. Further, the foundation has played a major role in the success of literacy projects in favelas, launching a teacher training program specifically geared toward children in these areas.
  2. Catalytic Communities, or CatComm, is an NGO based in Rio de Janeiro that is dedicated to empowering favela communities through strategic advocacy, research and education. These efforts are made to ensure that impoverished residents are treated as equal citizens. A recent project, the “Casa Technology Hub,” offers internet access to these communities. The group also launched a website that publicizes the voices of favela residents who are often excluded from mainstream media. By offering funded assistance to these communities, CatComm’s initiatives have been effective in bringing opportunity to Brazil’s favelas.
  3. Community in Action focuses its efforts on education development in Rio de Janeiro, working to elevate the lives of both children and adults in the favelas. Programs include extracurricular sporting events, childcare and vocational training for adults trying to enter the workforce. Since 2004, the NGO has offered these individual and group programs, resulting in countless foreign volunteers serving more than 10,000 people living in favelas.
  4. ActionAid is a UK-based NGO that aims to empower women and girls. The organization has made significant efforts in Brazil’s favelas, recognizing that female inhabitants are a marginalized group within an already marginalized community. They are often the victims of violence and sexual exploitation within favelas, as many young girls resort to prostitution to improve their circumstances. ActionAid provides therapy and educational courses to empower these women and give them the skills they need to enter the workforce. Each of ActionAid’s programs works toward its greater mission of gender equality, one favela at a time.
  5. The Brazil Foundation has raised $53 million for over 625 grassroots organizations throughout hundreds of Brazilian cities, since its founding in 2000. In addition to partnering with and funding NGOs that promote social and economic opportunity in Brazil, the Brazil Foundation offers each organization unique training to ensure the sustainability of its projects. The foundation’s thematic approach categorizes the organizations it supports in categories ranging from socio-economic development to health. This makes certain that the foundation distributes its funding and assistance to diverse groups in an organized and effective manner.

Since the turn of the century, these five organizations have worked tirelessly to bring opportunity to Brazil’s favelas. They aim to counteract the inequality and opportunity gaps between Brazil’s wealthiest citizens and regions, and impoverished favela inhabitants. With about one in every 20 Brazilians living in a favela, the role of these NGOs is growing and becoming more vital to bringing opportunity to Brazil’s favelas.

Breana Stanski

Photo: Flickr