Information and news on Brazil

Healthcare in Brazil
After the end of a 20-year military dictatorship, significant action began to take place regarding healthcare in Brazil. As a result of the long political struggle, healthcare as a right became enshrined in the Constitution in 1988. The Sistema Único de Saúde is the name of the public healthcare system in Brazil. Decentralized in its nature, both state and federal governments finance the system.

After a major reform in 1996, nearly 70% of the Brazilian population uses this system. The people who need it the most are those who cannot afford private health insurance, which tends to be the lower middle class, especially those who live in impoverished areas like the favelas. According to James Macinko, an associate professor of public health, the reform resulted in “Brazil [having] the lowest rate of catastrophic health expenditures (2.2 percent) of nearly any other country in the region.”

How the System Works

The system’s promise is providing equitable healthcare in Brazil, regardless of one’s socioeconomic background. As a result, many people of lower socioeconomic backgrounds received healthcare. In 1994, the government started an initiative called the Family Health Strategy. The program intended to provide healthcare services in people’s homes. While the intention of the program was not to strictly target the poor, those who reaped the greatest benefits were people of low income and living in impoverished areas.

The program was a medical success. It improved data accuracy regarding mortality, increased immunization rates to 100% and reduced unnecessary hospitalization for chronic diseases. However, most critically, it reduced the inequity in access and utilization of healthcare services. The government also created a program called Mais Medicos in 2013 which resulted in many foreign doctors (mainly from Cuba) arriving in Brazil and being placed in marginalized communities that lacked much-needed medical care.

Recurring Issues

The situation of healthcare in Brazil does raise a lot of concerns. For one, it is still sensitive to political and economic pressures. An example of this occurred in 2014 when Brazil experienced a deep recession. This resulted in the government taking austerity policies after failing to improve the economy through other means. These other means include price controls and stimulus packages. This led to lower tax revenues and significant cuts in healthcare during 2015.

On the political side, there is a recent example of Prime Minister Jair Bolsonaro capitalizing on the unpopularity of Cuban doctors by the Brazilian medical community. In the process, he made offensive accusations against the foreign professionals, required the doctors to take examinations to practice medicine in Brazil, forbade the Cuban government from taking away 75% of the doctors’ wages and mandated the doctors to have their families move to Brazil. This series of actions have alienated both the Cuban government as well as the Cuban medical practitioners which resulted in many leaving the country. This created a hole and vacuum that the government has tried yet failed to fill using Brazilian doctors. As of January 2019, 1,533 positions remain unfilled. The people who suffer most are the marginalized communities who desperately need those doctors.

Brazil’s Healthcare and Technology

Strong suggestions have emerged that one way to make Brazilian healthcare more resilient is by adding more investments to the existing infrastructure in order to make it more adequate. When it comes to making healthcare in Brazil more efficient, the leading solution providers are tech startups. They hone the power of technological innovation to address the inefficiencies in the system. One example is the startup iClinic, a Software as a Service that helps doctors with visitor management, organization of electronic records and remote telehealth consultations. It has had 22,000 customers which represent 7.5% of the market share.

On the mobile front, there are apps like Dieta e Saude. This has helped over a million and a half people make better choices regarding their dietary and exercise routines. When it comes to prescriptions, Memed is a startup that has emerged to fill the dire need for e-prescription management. It provides its services to more than 50,000 doctors. Errors occur in over 77% of prescriptions due to a lack of digitization. E-prescription management services help by reducing those errors through the use of scanning.

These are just some of the examples that make healthcare in Brazil more efficient, cost-effective and less dependent on the public healthcare system. As a result of these factors, public healthcare in Brazil will be in less need of government spending and less sensitive to political and economic pressures.

– Mustafa Ali
Photo: Pixabay

Brazil Indigenous coronavirusThe coronavirus has resulted in deaths all over the world, but some communities are more heavily affected than others. In Brazil, the coronavirus in Indigenous communities has taken an especially hard toll. COVID-19 disproportionately affects these often-isolated groups, which struggle to access the support systems needed to withstand this threat.

The Vulnerability of Indigenous Communities

Some Indigenous tribes living in Brazil have limited or no contact with the rest of the world. However, this isolation may render some tribes unaware of the pandemic in general or of its full seriousness. The coronavirus in Indigenous communities may also put tribe members at a greater risk, because they lack exposure to many illnesses. This means that their immune systems are often not strong enough to fight COVID-19.

Additionally, isolated Indigenous communities only have limited access to unreliable testing, contact tracing and communication of quarantine protocols. Some would have to travel for days to reach modern medical facilities providing such resources.

In particular, Indigenous communities fear the village elders contracting the coronavirus. Elders are not only the most vulnerable members of the community but may also experience the most serious effects of the disease. Additionally, many refer to these elders as “living libraries” or “living encyclopedias.” They hold tribal knowledge of culture, mythology and natural medicine, and many speak endangered languages. If coronavirus in Indigenous communities wipes out this generation of elders, their tribe’s cultural history and knowledge will die with them.

Why Outsiders Pose a Threat

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in indigenous communities often results from outsiders who visit these communities without taking the proper precautions. For example, doctors working in remote Indigenous regions have tested positive for the coronavirus. They only entered quarantine after they possibly spread the disease to multiple villages. Additionally, other medical teams have failed to follow proper quarantine protocol before entering an Indigenous reserve to care for those vulnerable to the disease.

Miners and poachers tapping resources on Indigenous lands have also spread the virus to these isolated communities. In Brazil, an estimated 40% of Yanomami people who live near these mining operations are now at risk of contracting COVID-19. Leaders from the Yanomami Indigenous Territory have spoken out, creating the hashtag #MinersOutCovidOut. Their aim is to raise awareness and demand an end to illegal gold mines and other land invasions.

The budget cuts and staff reassignment faced by FUNAI, a government agency that defends the boundaries of Indigenous land in Brazil, have made it possible for illegal miners and poachers to enter these protected regions. Indigenous people in certain tribes have also claimed that FUNAI only gave food supplies and assistance to tribes on officially demarcated land. However, even this aid was not enough to feed the large families of the tribe.

The Government in Brazil

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has come under fire in the past for dismissive statements about Indigenous communities in Brazil. He has also allowed illegal logging, mining and land grabs to continue. Currently, Bolsonaro’s administration faces criticism for its response to the pandemic. The Brazilian government’s conflicts with Indigenous communities have resulted in inadequate support required for these communities to fight COVID-19.

The Brazilian Supreme Court ordered in July 2020 that the government must create a crisis response team and develop a plan to control the coronavirus. However, Bolsonaro recently vetoed proposed laws to provide vulnerable Indigenous communities with designated intensive care beds, clean water and essential supplies. Bolsonaro defended this decision by citing excessive costs that he claimed would go against public interest.

Fighting the Coronavirus in Indigenous Communities

To fight this crisis, Brazilian Indigenous communities and outsider organizations are joining forces. The NGO Brazilian Health Expeditionary, or Expedicionários Da Saúde, has helped Indigenous people from over 700 isolated communities in the Amazon by setting up temporary medical facilities with necessary supplies. Local officials and Indigenous groups collaboratively gather money and distribute food supplies in place of the unfulfilled promise of government assistance.

Many individual tribes are also protecting themselves from the spread of the virus by remaining in isolation from the rest of the world. This means that they seek medical care within their own communities. As such, though the severity of the coronavirus in Indigenous communities in Brazil is dire, it is not without hope.

Allie Beutel 
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rainforest, covering about 40% of Brazil as well as parts of several other South African countries, is the largest, most biodiverse river basin in the world. It used to span nearly 2,300,000 square miles and is the drainage basin for the Amazon River. As Brazil’s population boomed in the 20th century, forest degradation ensued, causing rapid loss of vegetation and animal life. Read on to learn how poverty in the Amazon rainforest plays a major role in historical and contemporary fights for preservation.

The World’s Oldest Garden

Contrary to several outdated misconceptions, the indigenous people who first inhabited the Amazon rainforest were highly intelligent. They built complex structures to sustain cities of millions of people as well as cultivated the forest, much like a garden.

For over 8,000 years, indigenous communities favored certain trees, such as the brazil nut and cocoa bean, eventually domesticating such plants and allowing them to flourish. The soil in the Amazon is not suitable for this sort of cultivation, but indigenous peoples created their own fertilizer. This allowed millions of people to inhabit the forest along major waterways.

The Introduction of Disease

In 1541, Francisco de Orellana explored along the Amazon River, taking detailed notes in his journal about the many advanced civilizations he observed along the riverbanks. Sadly, the civilizations he witnessed were already being wiped out due to European diseases brought over decades before. As more extensive settlement took place a decade later, the civilizations Orellana saw were almost completely gone due to disease.

The settlement and exploitation of the Amazon remained fairly minimal until the rubber boom in the mid-1800s. The rubber boom ushered in an era of enslavement and genocide of the indigenous people, removing almost all of the indigenous communities from the Amazon rainforest.

A President with a Corrupt Agenda

The destruction of the Amazon rainforest directly correlates with the man in power, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, and the increase in slash and burn tactics in the forest has skyrocketed since. By August of 2019, Brazil saw nearly two times as many fires in the entirety of 2018. This is the highest level of deforestation the Amazon has seen since 2008. Swaths almost 4,000 square miles larger than Yellowstone Park have burned to the ground because of Bolsonaro’s policies. A large part of his election campaign revolved around the promise of exploiting the Amazon to improve Brazil’s struggling economy.

Circumstances for Unavoidable Poverty

Poverty in the Amazon rainforest has become nearly unavoidable due to conditions created by the people in power. Brazil is the world’s main exporter of beef and the most convenient way to keep up this exportation is to utilize slash and burn agriculture to quickly create spaces for cattle ranchers to take advantage of.

Although this may sound like it stimulates the economy and helps these low-income farmers, the Amazon rainforest provides resources that once depleted, cannot be replaced. These ranchers will never be able to escape their impoverished conditions because the burned forest land becomes useless so quickly. The poor indigenous communities suffer from poverty in the Amazon rainforest as do the poor ranchers. Both groups are trying to get by, but burning down the forest has no substantial or long-lasting benefits.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Although the destruction of the Amazon is daunting, there are several nonprofits working to preserve this biological gem and the people that depend on it. International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs and Amazon Conservation Team both prioritize supporting the indigenous people and environmental activists. Poverty in the Amazon rainforest unfortunately often falls upon the indigenous people, which is why these organizations are so critical in advocacy for the people who need it the most.

Rainforest Trust and Amazon Conservation Association are two more groups that prioritize tree restoration. Amazon Conservation Association has successfully planted more than 275,000 trees to date and Rainforest Trust has saved more than 23 million acres of the Amazon. With such a rich history and international importance, poverty in the Amazon rainforest cannot be ignored.

These are just a few of the many outstanding organizations working to save the rainforest from a corrupt government. Moving forward, it is essential that these organizations continue their work to conserve the Amazon rainforest and help reduce poverty for those living there.

Natalie Tarbox
Photo: Unsplash

Latin American Indigenous CommunitiesModernization has been pushing Latin American indigenous communities into progressively smaller bubbles. This causes many to lose important aspects of their cultures such as language and tradition. On this same note, many international governments only provide federal funding to indigenous communities if they follow certain guidelines. This has made the preservation of indigenous cultures increasingly more difficult as the years go by. The preservation of indigenous cultures is of course important at its core. However, what is equally important is who is controlling the narrative.

Modern Indigenous Struggles

Many indigenous communities are struggling to balance modernization with the preservation of their rich cultural histories. Although the numbers have been improving, Latin American indigenous communities are still very vulnerable. They also experience higher rates of poverty than their non-indigenous peers. Now many wonder about how this problem can be fixed.

Storytelling as a Possible Solution

Many people are interested in learning about Latin American indigenous communities. However, an ethical approach to this requires an administrative role in the production of any film depicting their culture. This important realization was introduced to the National Film Board in 1968 by the Company of Young Canadians and the National Film Board’s Challenge for Change program. This partnership saw the potential to elevate the voices of marginalized people, allowing them to control their own narratives and advocate for themselves.

A New Indigenous Storytelling Platform

August 9th is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. To commemorate the occasion this year, the People’s Planet Program launched a new platform called Tribal Stories. This platform amplifies the pieces created by indigenous filmmakers in the A’i Cofan community of Ecuador and the Kīsêdjê community of Brazil.

Initially, the founder of the People’s Planet Program, Abdel Mandili, was interviewing indigenous community members to produce his own documentaries. However, he quickly realized the importance of allowing these communities to control their own narrative. He then transformed the People’s Planet Program into a nonprofit organization that focuses its efforts on providing indigenous communities with the tools to document their story and a platform to promote it.

The People’s Planet Program engages in educational workshops and provides film equipment to these communities. Nonetheless, it allows the communities to advocate for the causes important to them. For example, many indigenous communities find themselves on the frontlines of deforestation, pollution and other business practices that negatively impact their communities. They have pivotal insights that many other communities do not.

In tandem with this, the People’s Planet Program helps connect indigenous communities with political activists and legal counsel. They aid them in their fight for equal representation and land rights.

When engaging in international advocacy, it can be quite easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your actions always reflect your intentions. Most of the time, this is true. However, taking a step back and allowing marginalized groups to speak for themselves is a crucial aspect of international advocacy. An important aspect of advocacy is providing people with the tools to better their societies on their own terms.

– Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America and is home to more than 210 million people. As of 2020, almost 7 million people in Brazil are living in poverty, approximately 3% of the total population. While this is already a significant decrease from previous years, recent innovations have helped lower poverty rates even further. Here are the most notable innovations in poverty eradication in Brazil.

Going Low Carbon

It is no secret that greenhouse gases have a significant environmental impact. Brazil has taken responsibility by rethinking its economy and discussing some potential solutions, including going low carbon. This change targets big infrastructure by encouraging green investments in industrial buildings, cutting down deforestation rates, as well as promoting the growth of agriculture.

Economically, by eliminating carbon emissions, more than $500 billion will go towards Brazil’s gross domestic product. These new funds will create around two million new jobs for the unemployed population. Because Brazil is an underdeveloped country, it relies heavily on foreign aid to boost its economy; attaining foreign investments from private companies has allowed for the creation of new environment-friendly markets. Through promotion of low carbon emissions, Brazil’s economy increased its GDP, indicating an improved economy.

Educating Brazil’s Future

In Brazil, 70% of children attend public schools. An average school day is around four and a half hours, but dilatory activities such as passing papers out or attendance often decrease the valuable time that could be dedicated to education. Only around 2% of impoverished Brazilian students will obtain enough education to improve their opportunities and livelihoods.

In 2017, the Connected Education Innovation Programme was started in order to provide technological resources for students. These resources include screens and reliable internet to help children achieve better quality education. In 2018, over seven million students profited from the Connected Education Innovation Programme. As the world progresses technologically, including these innovations helps improve a child’s likeliness to willingly participate in learning. Expanding these resources would go a long way in fostering a fun and safe learning environment.

Conditional Cash Transfers

In Brazil, the main conditional cash transfer program is called Bolsa Familia, or BFP. Conditional cash transfer programs are used in developing countries to provide welfare services for impoverished communities. BFP has helped Brazil’s impoverished population by improving the electronic monitoring of social services and the eligibility of low-income families.

BFP reduced Brazil’s extreme poverty rates by almost 60% and poverty by 30% between 2004 and 2014. By 2018, the program had reached more than 45 million people and created more than 20 social programs. By improving cash transfers, low-income individuals are able to gain access to services that benefit them financially.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence in Brazil is a recent addition to the country’s innovations. By the year 2030, Brazil predicts that around $15 trillion will be contributed to the world’s economy by the use of artificial intelligence technologies. Public transportation is a big factor where artificial intelligence comes into play in Brazil, as well as disease control.

In 2035, Brazil hopes to increase its gross value to more than $430 billion. Manufacturing makes up 12% of Brazil’s economy, which is another category in Brazil that is experimenting with new artificial intelligence machinery to benefit the economy. Through the usage of artificial intelligence in Brazil, higher levels of productivity are seen which helps increase the flow of Brazil’s economy.

 

These four innovations in poverty eradication in Brazil will help the nation further reduce its poverty rate. Increasing jobs, providing high quality education, offering cash options and bolstering the economy are all essential to this goal. Moving forward, it is essential that the Brazilian government and humanitarian organizations continue to prioritize poverty reduction.

– Karina Wong
Photo: Flickr

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