Information and news on Brazil

10 facts about corruption in brazil
As the largest nation in South America with a population of over 200 million, Brazil’s importance on the global stage is clear; however, corruption charges and convictions have riddled the country’s reputation. In 2014, one of the worst economic recessions in Brazil’s history hit it and left it in a state of political and economic instability along with ongoing corruption investigations. It is just beginning to recover. These 10 facts about corruption in Brazil serve to better understand one of the world’s most influential, and most corrupt, global players.

10 Facts About Corruption in Brazil

  1. Major corruption scandals have entangled Brazil’s last three presidents: Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva received a conviction in July 2017 on charges of receiving over $1 million in kickbacks which he put towards renovating his beachfront apartment, with additional charges of money laundering. Brazil impeached his successor, Dilma Rousseff, in 2016, for mismanaging the federal budget in order to hide the extent of the country’s deficit. Brazil arrested her successor, Michel Temer, in March 2019 (only three months after leaving office) on charges of funneling an estimated $470 million into a criminal organization he spearheaded.
  2. Many recent corruption charges have emerged from Lavo Jato, also known as Operation Car Wash: Conceived in 2014, this operation’s original focus was on exposing a car wash money laundering scheme. Results from the investigation indicted hundreds of government officials and business elites spanning 12 countries in one of the largest corruption scandals in Latin American history. By October 2018, Lavo Jato had resulted in over 200 arrests made on the basis of corruption, abuse of the international financial system, drug trafficking and money laundering. The arrest of former president Michel Temer is a direct result of Operation Car Wash.
  3. The working class felt the consequences of Operation Car Wash: Almost half of state-owned oil-giant Petrobras’s employees received lay off after Operation Car Wash exposed the extent of bribes taken by Petrobras in exchange for giving government contracts to Odebrecht, a construction company. The more than 100,000 laid-off employees, not directly involved in the corruption efforts, had to find new work during one of the largest economic downturns in Brazil’s history as a result of Petrobras’s corrupt actions. Executives from both companies face prison time (a U.S. court has even fined Odebrecht $2.6 billion for it to pay to U.S., Brazilian, and Swiss authorities).
  4. Brazil’s domestic corruption affects many countries: Operation Weak Flesh, an investigation launched by Brazilian officials announced in March 2017, has exposed Brazilian companies JBS and BFR, the world’s largest beef and poultry exporters, to public scrutiny, bringing Brazilian corruption further into the global spotlight. JBS and BFR bribed quality inspectors to approve the exportation of spoiled meat which they exported around the world, including to the U.S. The U.S. has since banned JBS and BFR products. Authorities have arrested the Batista brothers, heads of JBS, for insider trading and lying to authorities. They also charged JBS $3.16 billion in fines for bribes totaling $600 million spread across nearly 2,000 officials.
  5. Economists indicate that political instability caused by corruption contributed to Brazil’s recession: Consumer confidence drops in conjunction with political crises, resulting in GDP losses. For example, the value of Brazil’s currency dropped eight percent after a recording implicating Michel Temer in a bribery scheme released in May 2017. The election of current president Bolsonaro has been described as one of the most politically polarizing and violent elections in Brazil’s history. Bolsonaro himself was a victim of such political violence; he suffered a stabbing during a campaign rally in September 2018. Continued political instability and violence will breed further economic havoc, according to economic experts.
  6. Corruption places Brazil’s indigenous community at risk, as well: Current president Jair Bolsonaro’s agenda involves the loosening of current deforestation regulations that may result in denial of indigenous peoples’ land claims. Experts agree Bolsonaro’s election was in response to public frustration with government corruption. Threats of illegal deforestation to indigenous reserves have increased since Bolsonaro’s election, causing indigenous groups and NGOs to mobilize around the issue. Bolsonaro has plans to drastically cut funding for Brazil’s two agencies responsible for defending the Amazon from intruders; in response, a group of indigenous people has created the Forest Guardians, an unsanctioned patrol group set on defending indigenous lands from criminal intruders Bolsonaro’s campaign promise to limit regulations on deforestation and public land mining may embolden.
  7. The “Brazil Cost” was a common term to describe the price of bribery in Brazilian business: While Operation Car Wash has exposed many high-ranking political and business elite, the systemic extent of Brazil’s corruption crisis goes far beyond the elite; the “Brazil Cost” applies almost universally across businesses. Some companies even had the “Brazil Cost”, an estimate on the amount of money they would need to spend on bribes, built into their business models and compliance systems.
  8. There is hope, though: The results of the Poverty Action Lab’s study outline successful methods for corruption reduction: prior audits of Brazilian municipalities reduce future corruption, local reporting on corruption reduces corrupt activities in surrounding areas and corruption can be limited by increasing the perceived legal costs. While Brazil has yet to implement them on a large scale, these findings could help curb the corruption problem plaguing Brazil from the municipal level to the country’s highest-ranking officials.
  9. Brazil has already implemented real anti-corruption measures in an attempt to halt further corruption: Transparency International implemented a package consisting of 70 anti-corruption measures for the 2018 election. Alongside these measures, the Clean Tab policy, originally created by Brazilian officials in 2010 (but increasingly relied on since Operation Car Wash’s findings) have categorized politicians according to whether or not they have been involved in corruption scandals. Brazil denied entry to hundreds of candidates in the 2018 election due to prior instances of corruption (although many of these candidates appealed the decision and ran despite their “Dirty Tab” status).
  10. Anti-corruption laws are making headway: An anti-corruption law passed in August 2013 now holds people who give out bribes equally responsible to those public officials on the receiving end. Although Brazil proposed the law in 2010 and passed it in 2013, the country did not enforce it until a wave of anti-corruption protests in 2015, evidence of the difficulties in changing an aspect of a political culture that is so institutionalized. Prior to the passage of this law, Brazil did not recognize a corporate liability for bribery. The law also punishes corporations rather than individuals, meaning firing one employee does not rid the company of responsibility. As a result, corporations are spending more on compliance than ever before. From 2014 to the end of 2017, 183 cases occurred against corporations under this law, resulting in millions of dollars worth of fines. Experts are calling this new age of transparency and regulation the age of compliance.

Above are 10 facts about corruption in Brazil, but the problem and potential solutions are much more vast. While these 10 facts about corruption in Brazil paint a picture of the extent of the problem, one cannot overstate corruption’s tangible impact on the lives of everyday Brazilians. With each new election comes renewed fears of corrupt activities; nevertheless, innovative preventative and corrective initiatives are flowing freely, and a corruption-free future for Brazil is more likely than ever.

– Erin Jenkins
Photo: Flickr

Initiatives to Eliminate Malaria
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have initiatives in place to help eradicate malaria with hopes that malaria will be eliminated by 2030. Five initiatives to eliminate malaria are Municipalities for Zero Malaria, Malaria Champions of the Americas, Global Technical Strategy for Malaria, Millennium Development Goal 6, Rapid Access Expansion Program (RAcE) and the Global Malaria Program. It is estimated that half the world’s population, 108 million, is at risk for malaria.

Municipalities for Zero Malaria

Municipalities for Zero Malaria is a newly launched initiative by PAHO arriving on World Malaria Day, April 25, 2019. This initiative is focused on the Americas and its struggles and triumphs with malaria. Recent research has found that malaria in 19 countries exists in 25 municipalities. These 25 municipalities hold 50 percent of all cases of malaria in the Americas. This new initiative will focus on the empowerment of communities and addressing malaria at a local level. Local level measures allow for earlier access to diagnosis and treatment for malaria patients as well as raising awareness of seeking health care treatment. According to Dr. Marcos Espinal, the goals and keys for the success of the Municipalities for Zero Malaria are that “Organizations, citizens and local government authorities must be engaged in developing key interventions for malaria elimination at a municipality level if we are to ensure that no one gets left behind.” This initiative will be a part of the current program, Malaria Champions of Americas.

Malaria Champions of the Americas

Malaria Champions of the Americas started in 2009 and honors countries that have the best practices for eliminating malaria. This organization is a platform to continue to promote good news about malaria and the ongoing fight to eliminate it. The organization chooses and nominates municipalities based on efforts to eliminate malaria. This year, Malaria Champions of the Americas hopes that the new initiative, Municipalities for Zero Malaria, will spark new growth at local level prevention and eradication of malaria. Over the past 11 years, these great initiatives made an effort to eliminate malaria:

  1. In 2010, Suriname achieved a 90 percent decrease in the incidence of malaria through its National Malaria Board initiatives.
  2. Paraguay became champions in 2012 because of its efforts to control malaria on national, regional and local levels. Its National Malaria Eradication Service of the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare opened up 20 labs for diagnosis and seven entomology labs.
  3. Costa Rica accomplished a 100 percent decrease in malaria from 2000 until 2014 due to its national plan to eliminate malaria and supervised malaria treatment programs.
  4. Suriname decreased its malaria-related hospital admissions from 377 in 2003 to 11 in 2015. In addition, these hospitals had no death records for 2014 and 2015.
  5. El Salvador accomplished a decrease of 98 percent of malaria cases in 2014.
  6. Brazil’s National Program for the Prevention and Control of Malaria was about to treat 97 percent of patients within 24 hours after diagnosis of malaria in 2014.
  7. In 2017, Brazil became champions again after the number of malaria cases dropped from 8,000 in 2013 to 126 cases in October 2017. Brazil also reduced malaria in isolated populations.
  8. Paraguay received the WHO certification of a malaria-free country in 2017.

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization has three initiatives currently in motion. WHO’s Global Malaria Program is an overarching program that guides all of WHO’s initiatives and publishes a yearly malaria world report. As of 2017, incidence rates have dropped from “72 to 58 per 1000 population at risk” and deaths declined from 607,000 in 2010 to 435,000 in 2017. Currently, 46 countries have equal to or less than 10,000 cases of malaria.

The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria is a longterm initiative that will run from 2016 until 2030. The goal is to reduce case incidence and mortality rates by 90 percent, eliminate malaria in more than 35 countries and prevent the revitalization of malaria in areas it no longer exists. The program is primarily to help guide and support regional programs with the elimination and prevention of malaria.

Rapid Access Expansion Program (RAcE) concentrates on five endemic countries, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Nigeria, through an integrated community case management (iCCM) program. Each country has a corresponding organization partner to help obtain the goals of RAcE. The objectives of RAcE are to reduce the mortality rates, increase the access to diagnosis, treatment and referral services, meet the Millennium Development Goal 6 and provide evidence and support to WHO policymakers on iCCM. RAcE’s results have been successful with “over 8.2 million children under 5 were diagnosed and treated for malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea from 2013-2017.” The program also trained 8,420 health care workers to deliver these services to communities.

The Millennium Development Goal 6 has achieved its goal with a 37 percent decrease in cases of malaria over 15 years. Estimates determine that malaria-ridden countries avoided about 6.2 million deaths between 2000 and 2015 due to the initiatives to eliminate malaria.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Brazil
In Brazil, the fight for women’s rights is still a developing movement that has not become a priority of the nation. When it comes to education, the reasons why many girls do not enroll in or stay in school goes hand in hand with the government’s slow progress in providing a sustainable foundation for the opportunity of education for all. The following 10 facts about girls’ education in Brazil show some of the triumphs and setbacks in seeking higher enrollment of girls in Brazil’s educational system.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Brazil

  1. In Brazil, the average rate of schooling among women is one year more than men. Even though women are becoming more involved in education, they experience fewer employment opportunities and lower wages than men. Women continue to earn 30 percent less than men for performing the same tasks. On a political level, women only occupy 56 seats in the Brazilian Congress while there are 594 seats total.
  2. Women are increasingly closing gender gaps in education. There are many teenage girls subject to poverty who are victims of early pregnancies that keep them from continuing their education and entering the workforce. The adolescent fertility rate in Brazil, reported in 2013, was 70 which is above the average level of 67.7 for Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the World Bank.
  3. Malala Yousafzai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and an advocate for young girls, has been working on outreach to girls in Brazil through the Malala Fund. She has rallied up a team of around 460 students as part of Apple’s coding and web development academies in Brazil that her fund launched with Apple as part of Apple’s campaign to influence the education of technical coding. The partnership between the Malala Fund and Apple strives to give girls the opportunity to create change for other girls in their communities. The Malala Fund aims to help girls increase their enrollment in schools and equip teachers and students with real-life skills to succeed.
  4. Though the investment in early childhood enrollment in schools has increased, percentages of enrollment still drop in general. The 2018 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development states that access to pre-primary and primary education has become universal among five-year-olds and six-year-olds, girls included (97 percent and 100 percent). However, later in the educational journey, only 69 percent of 15 to 19 year-olds enrolled in education. Among those adolescents, girls hold the majority for out-of-school students at 254,202 girls compared to 209,507 boys, reported in 2016 by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
  5. Gender ratios in schools in Brazil are varied. More often, in STEM-related schools, there is a larger number of boys than girls who stay enrolled. Beatriz Magalhães, a teacher at one of Apple’s developer academies, saw the issue of gender ratios first-hand at the location in Rio. She said, “there was a giant line for the men’s bathroom and not the women’s bathroom.” This might seem like a simple observation but it is significant in the conversation towards improving the educational system for girls in various fields.
  6. Some of the main reasons for why girls drop out of school and do not continue their education are that they are too busy working to support their families, they are in abusive situations or experience child marriage or prostitution. A 2015 OECD study found that 32 percent of Brazilian women do not attend secondary education.
  7. A barrier to access to education for rural girls has to do with transportation. Concerns are over whether a commute to school is safe as well as the wait for new construction of highways and roads. A program to improve the efficiency of transportation in Tocantins, Northern Brazil is called the Tocantins Integrated Regional Sustainable Development project. It aims to strengthen and develop the state and rural road networks as well as reduce gender-based violence along highways.
  8. More schools are adopting programs to combat girl drop-out rates. A 2018 article by the World Bank said that the Upper School Darcy Ribeiro “will adopt a program to raise awareness about gender and physical, psychological or sexual violence.” This school, along with five others, in particular, will be partnering with the World Bank to jumpstart the program to show the correlation between these topics. The program’s purpose is to address and educate students of the dangers in close proximity in order to prevent students from having to face them. Since their specific school is by a busy highway, girl students are especially subject to sexual violence, sexually transmitted diseases and prostitution rings.
  9. There is a better chance of keeping girls in school when the administration tries to engage them. For example, Principal Elizete Batista Viana, of the Upper School Darcy Ribeiro, personally contacted students who decided to leave school and tried persuading them to come back, mentioning the beneficial outcomes if they were to come back. Her efforts were successful and influential as some did arrive back to classes.
  10. The benefits of literacy among women in Brazil have proven to have lasting effects. The benefits include “greater participation in the labour market, delayed marriage and improved child and family health and nutrition.” These changes in lifestyle help reduce poverty rates and expand life opportunities.

Like many countries facing difficulties and barriers in advocating for its young girls, the origin of the problem lies in the continuation of cycles of poverty in families. Girls are often too afraid to break away from this cycle and pursue a life of their own. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Brazil show what has been possible and what more can come to fruition. Instilling the idea of education and literacy in girls at a young age has the potential to give girls the push to seek their rights to that education.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

The U.S. Involvement in Latin AmericaFor decades, the U.S. government has been in charge of many anti-poverty and development programs in Latin America. One of the United States’ longest-running international aid programs has been the United States Agency for International Development or USAID. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 created this agency, which reorganized the U.S. government’s foreign aid money and mandated the creation of an independent federal agency tasked with administering economic aid to foreign countries. USAID has been a significant part of U.S. involvement in Latin America.

The U.S. started working in Latin America in 1962 when USAID began operating in the region. USAID has been one of the U.S. government’s primary methods of providing development assistance to the region. The agency currently works to help countries in Latin America develop by supporting small businesses, working to end government corruption, supporting democracy and helping the region protect its natural resources. This article will explain the history of the U.S. involvement in Latin America by focusing on three countries in particular: Brazil, Mexico and Nicaragua.

USAID in Brazil

A year after its creation, USAID partnered with Brazil’s government to solve a wide range of issues in public health, education, the rights of children, human trafficking and food insecurity.

  • Throughout the 1960s and 70s, USAID helped Brazil strengthen its institutions and provided financial support for higher education within the country.
  • During this time, USAID helped solve Brazil’s food crisis by funding the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) in 1972. Embrapa transformed Brazil from a struggling food producer to becoming the third largest agricultural producers in the world. Embrapa helped increase Brazil’s beef and pork supply by four times between 1975 and 2009. At the same time, the production of milk increased up to 7.03 billion gallons per year from 2.1 billion gallons per year.
  • In the 1980s, USAID shifted its focus toward public health issues, such as child trafficking, forest conservation and biodiversity research.
  • In 2014, USAID Brazil became the agency’s first strategic partnership mission. USAID recognized that Brazil was not merely a struggling country reliant on U.S. aid money, it was also a major partner in development efforts in the region and around the world. This partnership led to the creation of the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) that same year.

USAID in Mexico

U.S. development efforts in Mexico began 10 years before the creation of USAID with the passing of the Mutual Security Act of 1951. The United States’ efforts during this time primarily focused on housing guarantees, health programs, food security and academic exchanges between the United States and Mexican universities. USAID expanded upon these goals and added new priorities such as economic and technological development to Mexico’s development strategy with support for democratic governance.

  • USAID took a hiatus from supporting development programs in Mexico in 1965, but they resumed in 1977.
  • USAID disaster relief became crucial for rebuilding parts of the country after a devastating earthquake in 1985.
  • The U.S. and Mexico have forged successful bilateral cooperation on many issues as a result of USAID. Because the establishment of the Mexican Conservation Fund was a success, it gathered environmental experts to seek policy solutions to Mexico’s environmental problems.
  • In recent years, USAID has increased efforts to decrease gang and drug-related violent crime throughout the country. USAID’s programs have reduced the tendencies for Mexican youths in jail or on probation to repeat their criminal behavior. The national rate is 60 percent, whereas in Mexico, it is only 1.25 percent.
  • USAID has also made efforts to institutionalize the rule of the law in Mexico by reforming the country’s judicial system. Thanks to USAID-sponsored reforms, four Mexican states saw a 450 percent increase in resolutions to robbery disputes. The Justice for You platform provided information about the legal system to 32,389 people in 32 states.

USAID in Nicaragua

As was the case with Brazil, USAID began assisting Nicaragua in 1962, primarily helping Nicaragua’s government develop its infrastructure, healthcare and education.

  • USAID played a major role in helping disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in 1972 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Following the earthquake in 1972, USAID installed 4,560 connections for clean water to houses that lost access.
  • In the aftermath of a brutal civil war lasting from 1978 to 1989, USAID was instrumental in efforts to reinstate democracy in war-torn Nicaragua in 1990 by backing Violeta Chamorro of the National Opposition Union. With the help of USAID, the government of Nicaragua transitioned into democracy by providing training to civil society organizations that encouraged broader participation in government.
  • USAID helped Nicaragua embrace a market economy through its implementation of the Balance of Payment Support Program in 1990. This allowed Nicaragua to import capital goods, raw materials, agricultural inputs and oil. In 2005, USAID also helped bring Nicaragua into compliance with the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). USAID helped train more than 2,000 small to medium-sized Nicaraguan enterprises to be compliant with CAFTA.

The U.S. involvement in Latin America has had an encouraging amount of success. USAID, in particular, has facilitated political, economic and social development in Latin America on a massive scale since 1962. While Latin America still faces challenges with drug crimes, gang violence, political corruption, food security and poverty, USAID has undoubtedly played a role in fostering lasting development in the region.

Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

op Seven Facts About Poverty and Oral Health in Latin AmericaIndividuals living in poverty face disparities. Picture-perfect smiles are often out of reach for those living in impoverished conditions. This is due to various socio-economic factors like food insecurity or lack of dental coverage. The Pan American Health Organization found Latin Americans suffer from twice as many cavities as U.S. citizens. The top seven facts about poverty and oral health in Latin America are discussed here.

Top 7 Facts About Poverty and Oral Health in Latin America

  1. Oral health literacy is a neglected topic of research in the Latin American region. A correlation between the levels of oral health literacy in parents and a child’s oral health is present. This demonstrates the importance of furthering research. The Journal of Oral Research states the lack of oral health research is worrisome for the region. Oral health status is unique to each country and region.
  2. A 2016 report found Brazil’s dental market ranks third behind the United States and China. As a nation with one of the fastest-growing beauty markets, Brazil’s oral hygiene market is amongst the world’s leaders. Products such as toothpaste and mouthwash have seen an increase in recent years. A rising population, an emerging middle class, changes in consumer preferences and investment in promotions are causes of the growing market.
  3. In Latin America, there is a shortage of oral health personnel. Most of the dental systems are limited to pain relief or emergency services. In developing countries, such as those in Latin America, individuals are insufficiently covered for oral health care. This is a result of deregulation or privatization of care. A World Health Organization report indicates Chile has a 1.6 dentist-population ratio (one dentistry personnel per 10,000 people). On the other hand, Brazil sits at 12.3 density. The top seven facts about poverty and oral health in Latin America are revealing Brazil to be a dominating country in dental hygiene.
  4. However, the lack of government funding is a barrier for sufficient oral health care in Latin America. Often, government agencies are more likely to provide adequate funding to health care programs aiming at more serious diseases. Recent health surveys in Mexico investigated heart disease, addictions, immunization, chronic disease as well as violence against women. However, these surveys did not investigate oral diseases. Mexico spends approximately 6.2 percent of its budget on healthcare, a statistic below the 9.6 global average. Mexico’s healthcare system reform is projected to focus on prevention. It will reduce healthcare inequality through social factors and impose a new sales tax on sugared foods and beverages.
  5. In 2015, two dental students from Columbia University’s College of Dental Medicine partnered with the U.S. International Health Alliance, a non-profit organization working to advance global health, to bring dental care to children in Guatemala. Nearly 1,000 children received toothbrushes and lessons on oral health care and prevention of disease. The two dental students mentioned the local diet and lack of access to medical or dental care as two causes for the severe dental decay they witnessed.
  6. The Latin American Oral Health Association held a regional symposium to address the periodontal disease and its effect on general health in Latin America in January of 2019. Eighteen countries were represented as the aim of the symposium was to develop a regional plan to address gingival health issues. The symposium focused on the global burden of periodontal diseases on health, problems associated with diagnostic of the condition, problems associated with the treatment of the condition and possible solutions within Latin America.
  7. The University of West Florida’s College of Health studied the impact of social determinants of health, availability of oral health services, drug use and oral hygiene practices in Ecuador. The surveys conducted found participants had a low level of education, high levels of carbohydrates in their diet, poor feeding and prevention practices. The researchers reported their findings to the local authorities and community officials. They also plan to work closely with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a device to reduce fluoride levels in the community water system.

Though many countries struggle with oral health, these top seven facts about poverty and oral health in Latin America reveal the strides taken in minimizing the problem. Oral health is at the focus of various organizations both within and outside of Latin America. Researchers aim to look into oral health and increase education in the region. While certain countries like Ecuador and Guatemala struggle with oral health, Brazil acts as a model of what those nations can strive to become.

– Gwendolin Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Safe, Quality Drinking WaterOn May 24, 2019, thousands of residents from poor neighborhoods in Lima, Peru protested business litigation that has been obstructing their access to drinking water. The demand for safe drinking water, a necessity for any lifeform to thrive, is, unfortunately, a common obstacle in South America. Several countries struggle in providing this vital resource to its citizens, especially in rural areas with poorer communities. However, other countries are successfully paving a path to ensuring access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. Here are a few facts about safe drinking water throughout South America.

Access to Safe Drinking Water in South America

  • Peru: Thirty-one million people live in Peru, but 3 million don’t have access to safe drinking water, and 5 million people don’t have access to improved sanitation. While more than 90 percent of Peruvian residents have access to improved drinking water, in rural areas, access drops to below 70 percent. Likewise, urban areas offer sanitation facility access to 82.5 percent of the population, but barely over 50 percent of people in rural communities, highlighting the drastic disparity between socioeconomic and regional populations.
  • Brazil: Similarly, shortcomings in providing safe, quality drinking water exist in South America’s largest country, Brazil. With a population of 208 million, 5 million Brazilians lack access to safe drinking water, and 25 million people, more than 8 percent of the population, don’t have access to sanitation facilities. While 100 percent of the urban population has access to drinking water, in rural areas the percentage drops to 87. The numbers take another hit when it comes to access to sanitation facilities. Eighty-eight percent of the urban population has this access, but almost half of the people in rural populations lack proper sanitation facilities.
  • Argentina: A similar narrative occurs in Argentina, where urban populations might have decent access to safe, quality drinking water and sanitation facilities, but the numbers drop off concerning rural and lower socioeconomic communities which struggle in having their needs and demands addressed by the government. Typical causes for low-quality drinking water include pollution, urbanization and unsustainable forms of agriculture.
  • Uruguay: In stark contrast, Uruguay has available safe drinking water for 100 percent of urban populations, almost 94 percent in rural populations, over 96 percent for improved access to sanitation facilities for urban populations and almost 94 percent for rural populations. The World Bank participated in the success of transforming Uruguay’s access to drinking water, which suffered in the 1980s, by offering loans to the main utility provider. The World Bank and other developers financially assisted Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE), the public utility that now provides drinking water to more than 98 percent of Uruguayans, in addition to providing more than half of the sanitation utilities in Uruguay. In addition to finances, these partners aid in ensuring quality operation standards such as upholding accountability, preventing unnecessary water loss, implementing new wastewater treatment plants in rural areas and protecting natural water sources such as the Santa Lucia river basin.
  • Bolivia: Like Uruguay, Bolivia made recent strides in improving access to safe, quality drinking water. They began by meeting the Millenium Development goal of cutting in half the number of people without access to improved drinking water by 2015. President Evo Morales, “a champion of access to water and sanitation as a human right,” leads to a path for the next step which is to achieve universal access to drinking water by 2020 and sanitation by 2025. Bolivia also recently invested $2.9 billion for drinking water access, irrigation systems and sanitation. In 2013, Morales addressed the United Nations calling for access to water and sanitation as a human right. Dedicated to his cause, he leads Bolivia in surpassing most other countries on the continent in ensuring these essential amenities to his constituents.

Unfortunately, the progress of Bolivia and Uruguay doesn’t transcend all borders within South America, as millions still feel neglected by their governments due to not having regular, affordable, safe, quality access to clean drinking water.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Teachers in Brazil
In recent years, the challenges of teachers in Brazil have become a focus of the Brazilian government. With the introduction of a new Plan for Education, issues such as a shortage of teachers, inadequate pay and teacher training and unequal access to education in the country are now receiving greater attention.

Yet, a recent outbreak of violence in the form of a school shooting, controversy on the teaching of particular subjects, and widespread teacher dissatisfaction continue to make the profession an unappealing one. The following are the top 10 facts about teachers in Brazil.

Top 10 Facts About Teachers in Brazil

  1. Many Brazilian teachers report feeling undervalued. A recent study has shown that nearly half of the teachers in Brazil would not recommend the teaching profession to students.
  2. Educational reforms have targeted teacher quality. The district of São Paulo has introduced systems to improve its teacher’s skills. For instance, teaching coaches are provided in every school. This initiative awards teachers and schools meeting annual targets. Additionally, ongoing training place greater value on education and provide teachers with positive motivation.
  3. Class sizes in Brazil have dropped by eight percent between 2005 and 2016. Additionally, many teachers in Brazil are working at two schools daily. This is due to a shortage of teachers in many communities. As a result, they teach in four-hour shifts with little time for lesson planning and study.
  4. Teacher education has only recently been standardized. Before 1996, teachers were not required to have a post-secondary degree and many had not attended college. Now, there is a requirement for teachers to obtain a degree and pass a national examination. As of 2010, 40 percent of all working teachers in the São Paulo district remain unaccredited. As a result, free courses are now available to teachers to improve practical classroom skills.
  5. Salaries for teachers in Brazil are below average. According to the OECD, in 2018, the maximum average salary for teachers in Brazil was $24,100 USD. This is in comparison to the average of $45,900 per year in surrounding countries. This places many teachers in a lower socioeconomic status. Additionally, in recent years, low pay has also contributed to several teacher strikes in Brazil, some that have turned violent.
  6. Teachers provide support for students living in poverty. In 2013, 2.7 percent of students in Brazil between 5 and 14 years old were working, rather than attending school. Of those, many also make up the 7.2 percent of Brazilians reportedly illiterate as of 2015. Historically, many Brazilian parents doubt the value of education for their children. That being said, teachers are urged to monitor student attendance and encourage parents to keep their children in school with government ‘Bolsa Familia’ incentives.
  7. The number of indigenous teachers in Brazil has grown. Brazil is home to about 900,000 indigenous peoples. Children in mostly rural indigenous communities are four times more likely to work rather than attend school. Over the last two decades, the Brazilian government has adopted a commitment to provide education to indigenous children in their traditional languages and using traditional methods. Indigenous schools are autonomous, but legally overseen by the Brazilian government and staffed by specially trained teachers from within the community.
  8. Following the election of Jair Bolsonaro as president in 2018, a right-wing movement called Escola Sem Partido or School without Party (ESP) gained ground. Responding to allegations that teachers have spread left-leaning propaganda in classrooms, advocates have called for a ban on the promotion of controversial political and social views in education. Critics argue that the ban violates constitutional freedom to teach and learn. Conservative legislator Ana Caroline Campagnolo has suggested that students report teachers in violation, resulting in a rash of police encounters in classes.
  9. Recent violence has led to the death of two teachers. In March of 2019, two teachers and five students were killed in a school shooting in a public school in Suzano. The incident was one of a handful of school shootings since 2000, which remain rare in Brazil but are causing concern about the security of classrooms and the safety of teachers and students.
  10. The use of technology as an educational resource is growing. Half of all Brazilian teachers reported using technology, particularly mobile phones, in lesson planning and gathering resources for the classroom. The number of educational resources available, including apps, pre-prepared lesson plans, and online videos, has significantly increased. The district of Sao Paulo issued a $5.5 billion BRL contract in 2013 for technology and educational content. Samsung, Unicef, and the Brazilian organization, Nova Escola, are among the companies gathering original content, providing online lessons and teacher training materials and targeting plans to improve student engagement.

The top 10 facts about teachers in Brazil indicate obstacles to improvement, but a growing effort. Reforms are being put in place to fund schools and increase the number and quality of teachers. These improvements show promise to both Brazilian educators and students.

– Marissa Field

Photo: Agustin Diaz

Life Expectancy in Brazil
From 1940 to 2016, the life expectancy in Brazil had steadily risen to an all-time high of 75 years. This improvement was largely due to efforts by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environment to strengthen the health and sanitation systems in the country. A continued increase in life expectancy can be achieved by utilizing technology to enhance the capabilities and performance of the healthcare system and by improving sanitation and access to clean water for all Brazilians.

An Improved Healthcare System

In 1988, after the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship, a newly established constitution created the Unified National Health System (UHS), which was expanded to provide free of charge and comprehensive health services with near-universal access. A focus on prenatal care, child nutrition programs, immunization campaigns and other important preventative services have played key roles in the increase of the life expectancy in Brazil.

In 1994, the Family Health Strategy (FHS) was founded. It has been heavily relying on community health workers (CHWs) to provide basic and preventative healthcare. Teams of doctors, nurses and community health workers were deployed throughout the country to cover territories of 3,000 to 4,000 residents. The FHS provides medical resources to underserved areas and allows the health teams to closely monitor the health status of the residents in their region. Currently, there are more than 265,00 active CHWs delivering care to around 67 percent of the population. The FHS was instrumental in increasing the life expectancy in Brazil from 67 years in 1994 to 75 years as of 2016.

The Use of Technology

Although the UHS is vital to improving health and life expectancy, the system still faces challenges caused by rising healthcare and medicine costs, maldistribution of medical professionals and poor access to health services in low-income regions. The Ministry of Health has invested in health technology systems and mobile applications to expand access to health services, improve the quality of care and reduce the overall costs of the UHS.

In 2012, they partnered with the medical journal, BMJ, to create the BMJ Best Practices application. More than 11,400 people now use the mobile app to make more informed diagnostic and treatment decisions for their patients at the point of care. Early diagnosis and treatment help to improve health outcomes, so it is beneficial for Brazil to continue to embrace this kind of technology. It is estimated that the country would spend $336 million on healthcare technology and applications by the end of 2018, but would potentially save $42 billion per year over the next 15 years. Hospitals and clinics with integrated health technology, such as electronic health and medical records, have also been shown to have a 3 to 4 percent lower mortality rate, which improves life expectancy rates in Brazil.

Improve Sanitation and Access to Clean Water

It is estimated that 50 percent of Brazilians do not have access to sewage and sanitation services. In fact, 35 million Brazilians still lack access to clean water. Inequalities exist in the over-concentration of services throughout affluent regions while services are lacking in poor and low-income regions. Between 2010 and 2014, there were almost 14,000 hospitalizations for diseases related to poor sanitation. In the densely populated Porto Alegre region, dengue rates were five times higher from 2001 to 2013.

In order to address the burden of sanitation-related illnesses, the National Public Sanitation Plan was formed in 2007 with the goal of providing clean water and sewage services to 93 percent of households by 2033. Between 2007 and 2015, the percentage of households with access to clean water had only slightly increased from 80.9 to 83.3. Operating with a deficit of $1.9 billion has impeded progress, and the program is currently on pace to meet its goals by 2050. With proper funding, however, the country could meet its original goals, which would go a long way to increase the life expectancy in Brazil.

Substantial investment from the federal government, public-private sources of capital along with investment from foreign aid programs such as UNICEF is still needed if Brazil is going to establish the infrastructure to achieve its original goal by the target deadline of 2033. As the country looks to the future, expanding the FHS, integrating technology into the healthcare system and enhancing sanitation services are key focus areas. These priorities will sustain and further improve the life expectancy in Brazil.

Chinanu Chi-Ukpai
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Living Conditions in BrazilBrazil has one of the most unequal wealth distributions in the world, which leads to drastic differences in quality of living conditions between Brazil’s poor and rich. Big cities in Brazil will often have luxury apartments next to slums piled up on the outskirts of the town.

10 Facts about Living Conditions in Brazil

  1. Slums are called favelas, which are living conditions for the extremely impoverished in Brazil. They are built by their occupants on the edges of big cities like Rio de Janeiro.
  2. As of 2013, two million people in Brazil live in favelas. The occupants of favelas are extremely poor, unable to afford better housing in urban areas. These citizens often moved to urban areas to find better work but were forced into the slums when they could not find a job that paid them enough to purchase better housing.
  3. The communities of favelas do not have any organization or sanitation systems and are built illegally. With a lack of any structure or legal system which leads to higher crime rates, favelas are often sites of crime and drug-related violence.
  4. Rates of disease and infant mortality are high in favelas, and poor nutrition is common. The lack of sanitation and proper healthcare leads to diseases and more deaths in children.
  5. Unpredictable weather, which could cause landslides, can often wipe away entire communities of favelas. Weather like this leaves those who have limited housing with none at all.
  6. Over 50 million Brazilians live in inadequate housing. In addition to urban slums, rural areas of Brazil also experience significant poverty and lack of quality housing. This means many Brazilians rural dwellers do not have access to sanitation systems like flushing toilets and running water.
  7. Favelas are becoming increasingly common as sites for tourism. Every year, around 40,000 people visit favelas in Brazil to see the poverty that they would otherwise never be exposed to.
  8. Overall, there is an intense need for more housing in Brazil. The country needs to construct eight million more houses to provide enough shelter fulfill to those who need it. Current housing is cramped and people are often forced into the favelas as a result.
  9. Habitat for Humanity works closely with Brazil to reconstruct slums and drive housing projects. As an organization, HFH has helped almost 13,000 Brazilian families to find or build better housing. They have also worked to rehabilitate Brazilian slums.
  10. The Brazilian government launched a program in 2009 called Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My Home, My Life) that helped four million low-income families build homes. Families with low incomes were able to apply to move into new homes or have their current home reconstructed.

Programs like Minha Casa, Minha Vida are essential for the government to invest in, in order to improve living conditions in Brazil. 

– Amelia Merchant

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Brazil Can't Continue
Brazil is a tropical sought getaway for anyone looking for adventure, fun, and possibly romance. Tourists from all over the world travel to Brazil in order to explore new places and find something new within themselves. For the people of Brazil, however, living in poverty in Brazil can’t continue.

Income inequality

After collecting data, researches have shown that Brazil is a vastly unequal country where inequality affects all corners and areas. Here’s a common example: in terms of ethnicity, or skin color, the people with the lowest rates of income, 78.5 percent, are black or mixed race, while only 20.8 percent are white.

A report by Oxfam International states that in Brazil, the six largest billionaire’s wealth and equity are exactly equal to 100 million poorest Brazilians.

If the labor market were to continue this path as it has for the last twenty years, women and men won’t be earning the same wage until the year 2047, with 2086 being the year where the income of blacks and whites stands equal.

In March 2017 alone, 17 million children under the age of 14, equal to 40.2 percent of the Brazilian population of this age group, live in low-income houses.

In 2017 the number of people living in extreme poverty in Brazil went up by 11.2%, rising from 13.45 million in 2016  to 14.83 million, based on data released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Definition of extreme poverty used in a research was set by the World Bank and is defined as an income per capita below $1.90 a day.

According to IBGE, in 2017, the wealthiest 1% of Brazil’s population earned 36.1 times more than the bottom half of the population, averaging a monthly income of nearly $8,000. The poorest 5% of Brazilians received an average income of around $11 a month comparing to $14 the year before. Income of the wealthiest 1% only dropped 2.3% in the same period.

Even with achievements in poverty reduction beginning to make strides in the past ten years, inequality still sits at a high level. Universal coverage in primary education was one of the biggest accomplishments for Brazil, but Brazil is struggling to improve system outcomes.

Positive trends

A major silver lining is that reducing deforestation in the rainforest and other biomes have made a great deal of impact in terms of progression from ecological damage. Still, Brazil continues to face development challenges such as: finding ways to benefit agricultural growth, environmental protection, and sustainable development.

Brazil played a huge role in formulating climate framework and has ratified the Paris Agreement. In that sense, the country has demonstrated its leadership role in international negotiations on climate change where many other countries came up short. With these significant contributions to climate change within its borders, Brazil has voluntarily committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 36.1% and 38.9% by 2020. Chances are big that Brazil will most likely reach projected numbers sooner.

Poverty in Brazil can’t continue, especially having in mind country’s potential for tourism and the amount of beauty and natural resources it has to offer. There is a solution, and as with most things, it rests in the most obvious place: understanding the scope of the problem and seeing it for what it truly is. Knowing nothing is hopeless because even hopelessness can’t exist without hope existing in a first place. This is how poverty is combatted. This is what the people of Brazil deserve: to hope and truly live.

– Gustavo Lomas
Photo: Flickr