Information and news on Brazil

Gojira's activismThe Yanomami indigenous reserve in Brazil is roughly the size of Portugal, though fewer than 200 healthcare workers serve the area. The effects of malnutrition and malaria among indigenous Brazilians have taken a severe toll on children. Indigenous populations are also more vulnerable to COVID-19. Epidemiologist Andrey Cardoso told The Guardian that the COVID-19 death rate is higher in indigenous children younger than 5 compared to the same age group in the general population. Deteriorating healthcare is just one of the issues indigenous people in Brazil face. Rampant deforestation and attacks from illegal gold miners have also plagued these groups. These issues have resonated with a heavy metal band, Gojira. Gojira’s activism has spurred people to raise more than $300,000 in support of the indigenous Brazilian rights group, The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

Illegal Gold Mining

Violent attacks have been a growing problem for indigenous Brazilians. Land conflicts in Brazil hit an all-time high in 2020 with more than 1,500 cases, 656 of which involved indigenous Brazilians. Illegal gold miners have been particularly aggressive toward indigenous groups. In May 2021, unlawful gold miners invaded the Munduruku indigenous reserve, setting multiple houses ablaze.

In another attack on the Yanomami people, illegal miners “opened fire with automatic weapons” during three consecutive days of violent fighting. Illegal mining has also led to severe deforestation in the region with more than 3,000 acres of forestland cleared in the Munduruku reserve in January and February 2021 alone. Additionally, reports indicate that more than 1,700 acres of land have been degraded in the Yanomami reserve from January 2020 till May 2021.

Brazilian Indigenous Healthcare

The effects of the attacks comprise just a portion of the problems that plague indigenous groups in Brazil. A 2019 report requested and funded by UNICEF reveals that, in the Yanomami areas of Polo Base de Auaris and Polo Base de Maturacá, roughly 81% of children younger than 5 were chronically malnourished. Poor access to nutritious foods was highlighted as one of the causes.

Overall, healthcare access in these regions is also poor. Member of the Indigenous District Health Council, Junior Yanomami, told El Pais that healthcare groups had not visited the village of Maimasi for six months at one point. Not only were many residents stricken with malaria, but several children suffered from malnutrition and verminosis — a disease caused by parasitic worms. In total, fewer than 200 healthcare workers cover the 28,000 Yanomami and Ye’kwana people in Brazil, highlighting the lack of health support in the areas.

Gojira Assists

Upon learning more about the problems plaguing indigenous people in Brazil, Gojira partnered with the activism support website, Propeller, to host an auction of heavy metal memorabilia in support of the largest indigenous rights group in Brazil, The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil. Gojira’s activism auction came after the band released its single, Amazonia, in support of The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

The auction, which featured personal memorabilia from heavy metal icons like Metallica, Slayer, Slash and Tool, raised more than $300,000 for the indigenous rights group. In another successful effort by the band, Gojira’s activism also garnered support and awareness for an important cause. “Words are great, music is great, but action is something concrete,” Gojira drummer, Mario Duplantier, told Louder Sound.

Inspiring Activism

Hopefully, Gojira’s activism marks just one way in which indigenous groups in Brazil begin to receive the support and fundraising needed to combat the major issues they face. In addition, Gojira will hopefully serve as an example of how other famous groups can use their platforms to make an impact in struggling communities around the world.

– Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Gender Wage Gap in Brazil
Despite having the same legal rights as men, Brazilian women continue to fight for equality in the workplace. The gender wage gap in Brazil is one of the largest in Latin America, and women earn an average of 30% less than men.

Today, societal norms and the lack of gender representation in Congress contribute to this gap. As a result, the pay gap affects minority women the most and they earn approximately half the wage of the average white man. Despite the pay gap between women and men, Brazil has made advances toward gender equality in the past few decades.

Gender Inequality in Brazil

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 78% of men hold jobs in comparison to 56% of women in Brazil. Yet, the majority of women in the survey said that they would prefer a paid job to staying at home.

In Brazil, most women have access to the same educational opportunities as men. However, their degree does not necessarily translate into a higher salary. For example, women account for more than 60% of the workforce with college degrees. However, they receive 36% less pay than men with college degrees. Therefore, the gender wage gap in Brazil impacts women of all educational and economic backgrounds.

The Issue

Traditionally, Brazilian culture expects women to stay at home while men support the family. As a result, women who break cultural norms by working outside the home find it difficult to establish successful careers. Though women make up roughly half of the workforce in Brazil, only 16% of companies have a female CEO and less than 20% of women hold middle management positions. These statistics illustrate Brazil’s well-established social hierarchy where women rank second to men.

Women’s underrepresentation in Congress also allows men to hold the majority of political power within the Brazilian government. Women held fewer than 15% of Congressional seats until 2018. The male-dominated Congress failed to pass legislation that would address the gender wage gap in Brazil. Even though women have held 30% of Congressional seats following the 2018 election, women still experience stigma for challenging cultural norms.

How the Gender Wage Gap Affects Minorities

Afro-Brazilian women suffer the most from the lack of female representation in Congress. There are few government officials to represent their best interests. The average income for Afro-Brazilian women is $2.50 per hour. The average income for white women is $4.02 per hour. These salaries compare to the average for white men, which is $5 per hour.

The gender wage gap in Brazil affects women of all socio-economic backgrounds. In 2015, Afro-Brazilians made up 76% of the lower class, and only 17% was among the country’s richest 1%. Even more, minority women with secondary education earn less than their white counterparts with the same qualifications, showing how the wage gap adversely affects minority women.

The Progress

Local organizations are actively working within the Brazilian community to bridge the gender wage gap. For example, the Associação the Comunitária dos Moradores de Mandassaia (Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia) promotes gender equality by empowering women in the small town of Mandassaia, Brazil.

Mandassaia is a rural town where job opportunities are scarce. Typically, Mandassaia women work in sugar cane fields or stay home to raise their children. In 2017, the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia partnered with the National School Feeding Program to help a small group of women profit off of Mandassaia’s sugar cane production. The Program teaches women cake baking and jam production so they can make money selling baked goods. Through the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia, these women were able to increase their income by 425% and earn a livable wage.

Mandassaia’s bakers now have a community farming seal, which allows them to expand their business and provide more job opportunities for women. By helping women become financially independent in local communities, the Community Association of Residents of Mandassaia is reducing the wage gap in Brazil.

Looking Ahead

The pay gap has decreased over the last few decades, and the Brazilian government is participating in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to achieve equal pay by 2030. The Brazilian government has also agreed to work toward reducing gender inequality in the workforce by 25% by 2025. Although Brazil continues to struggle with bridging the wage gap in the workplace, the efforts of the Brazilian government and community to eliminate gender inequality represent an encouraging step forward.

Abby Adu
Photo: Flickr

Electrifying the Rural Amazon
In the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, communities of people currently live on islands with no electricity. The Tucuruí hydroelectric dam on the Tocantins River in the Amazon provides electricity to countless people but not to those living in the area. In 2013, nearly a quarter of those living in this region lived in “favelas” or slums and 12,000 people were without electricity. Electrifying the rural Amazon could improve the conditions of those living there.

Bringing Power

The Brazilian government’s original plan was to connect isolated communities to the national power grid. However, this was not feasible due to Brazil’s difficult terrain. The landscape made it very challenging to reach certain remote regions. Oftentimes, these remote areas have plenty of renewable resources, such as the sun, wind and water. This means that off-grid solutions, such as individual solar panels, can be much more effective in reaching these areas. Thus, a new plan emerged.

Omexom, through its Brazilian branch (VINCI Energies), plans to install mini photovoltaic power plants to bring electricity to these isolated communities. From January 2019 to January 2020, Omexom was supposed to install 1,361 solar panel systems to the islands surrounding the dam. Each of these solar panels has a capacity of 1.8 MWp, which is enough power to run lights and household appliances on the farms. This is all part of the Brazilian government’s program “Luz Para Todos.” This endeavor aims to provide electricity to more than 10 million people living in the rural areas of the country without access to the grid. Electrifying the rural Amazon and other rural areas in Brazil can help the country in a multitude of ways, including poverty.

How Electricity Helps Poverty Reduction

Very few farms on these islands have access to diesel generators for power as they are expensive. Many families use oil lamps for light and preserve food using ice they must bring back from the mainland daily. Renewable resources could help increase the quality of living for these families through sustainable development. In turn, this could reduce poverty overall.

According to an environmental research letter, “Electrification provides a solid basis for development of local communities.” Access to electricity aids communities in accessing other vital resources. Safe potable water, improved health conditions and food security are all linked to available electricity. By-products, such as time saved and less pollution, also aid the community.

Electrifying the rural Amazon can help improve Brazil’s Human Development Index (HDI) score. Studies have shown a clear connection between HDI and electricity consumption. One study even concluding that electricity consumption promotes human development. In the case of Brazil specifically, the states with the highest HDI score were also the states with the highest electrification levels in the country.

Lighting Up the Future

Brazil can help improve the lives of the rural populace by simply giving these communities access to electricity. Electrifying the rural Amazon will help the people isolated by the Tucuruí dam and many others across the rainforest. With increased access to electricity, inhabitants can obtain a higher quality of life and have more opportunities in life. Electricity for those who live off-grid can help to decrease poverty levels. It is time to bring poverty-reduction efforts to the rural areas; it is time to electrify the rural Amazon.

Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Relief in India and BrazilThe video game industry is doing its part in the global fight against COVID-19. The online video game storefront, Humble Bundle, is playing a major role in charitable efforts. As of May 28, 2021, Humble Bundle has raised almost $1.2 million for COVID-19 relief in India and Brazil.

What is Humble Bundle?

Humble Bundle is an online video game store founded in 2010. Since then, the video game bundles that give the company its name have raised money for a wide variety of charitable efforts, from the World Wildlife Foundation to Make-A-Wish. The funds primarily come through the sale of popular video games along with other entertainment items like comic books.

Humble Bundle has garnered almost $200 million through bundles. These often include selections from popular gaming franchises like Civilization, Saints Row and BioShock. Typically a portion of each bundle is donated either to the company’s featured charity of the month or the purchaser’s chosen charity. However, Humble Bundle took a bit more of a drastic approach in May 2021 to help several organizations in India and Brazil during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Humble Bundle created the live “Humble Heal: COVID-19 Bundle” from May 12, 2021, until May 19, 2021, in order to support four different charities working in Brazil and India during the ongoing pandemic. More than 54,000 bundles were sold. India recently experienced a record one-day COVID-19 death toll of more than 6,000 deaths on June 10, 2021. Around the same time, Brazil neared 500,000 overall deaths due to COVID-19. The relief efforts of Humble Bundle and other charities are vitally important for COVID-19 relief.

Humble Bundle COVID-19 Relief Support

The charities supported by the bundle primarily focus on providing medical equipment and care to those in need. For example, in February 2021, Direct Relief granted more than $500,000 in aid to Amazonas in Brazil for roughly 350 oxygen concentrators. The Brazilian state desperately needed oxygen concentrators for local medical facilities and people isolated in rainforests. Similarly, in April 2021, Direct Relief donated $5 million toward the purchase of oxygen concentrators in India as well.

According to a recent report by Doctors Without Borders, countries like Brazil were forced to ration treatments or prioritize some patients over others due to a lack of resources. Humble Bumble supported Doctors Without Borders with donations to ensure that essential health services continue with the necessary medical resources.

GiveIndia also incorporates oxygen supply efforts into its pandemic relief. The charity raised more than $6 million to help boost the oxygen supply in India. GiveIndia also provided financial support for low-income families who lost employed family members during the pandemic. Furthermore, the organization supplied food for those struggling with hunger.

The International Medical Corps, another organization supported by Humble Bundle, is also working to strengthen the healthcare system in India, provide crucial medical supplies and deliver personal protective equipment. Additionally, the nonprofit is working to combat vaccine hesitancy in the country to ensure a successful vaccine rollout throughout the country.

The Impact of Humble Bundle’s Efforts

Humble Bundle supports nonprofits like International Medical Corps and Direct Relief in a unique and creative way. It not only provides significant humanitarian funds to the organizations but also spotlights the organizations and increases awareness and engagement through its platform.

“The generosity received as a result of Humble Bundle’s effort is deeply inspiring and will serve as a force-multiplier to get more aid into these areas to improve the health and lives of those who are most vulnerable,” says Heather Bennett, vice president of Partnerships and Philanthropy at Direct Relief.

The nearly $1.2 million raised by Humble Bundle will certainly help these nonprofits continue their impactful work. This will provide COVID-19 relief in India and Brazil to help hard-hit communities recover and rebuild.

– Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Brazilian Soccer Players When COVID-19 spread worldwide in 2020, it left most countries with devastation. Shortly after the world’s attention turned to Italy, Brazil found itself facing a similar fate. Brazil initially underestimated the virus’s severity, and as a result, Brazil is struggling to overcome the outbreak, currently ranking third in the world for the highest number of COVID-19 cases. For a developing country such as Brazil, the impacts of COVID-19 are particularly harsh. Brazilian soccer players are coming together to support the fight against COVID-19 in Brazil.

Brazil as an Epicenter of COVID-19

As of May 30, 2021, Brazil reported more than 16 million COVID-19 cases and more than 462,000 deaths. Brazil has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Latin America. Brazil reported a surge of deaths in April 2021 with a peak of more than 4,000 daily deaths. Despite these high numbers, President Bolsonaro has made several statements underestimating the severity of the pandemic, stating that it is merely a case of minor flu. Furthermore, he refused to impose lockdowns or curfews to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Bolsonaro also disregarded opportunities to secure millions of vaccines for Brazil. Bolsonaro’s loose measures for containing the virus have been universally condemned.

Brazil Urges the World for Help

After the devastating impacts of COVID-19, Brazilian state governors begged the United Nations for urgent help. The call for help asks for assistance through “vaccines, hospital supplies and even manpower.” Before Brazil became the epicenter of the virus, the Trump administration helped Brazil with $20 million in pandemic assistance. The U.S. provided $75 million in aid for the private sector and 1,000 ventilators.

President Trump even sent along millions of hydroxychloroquine pills. According to a spokesperson for the European Union, the EU provided $28 million worth of grants to Brazil since the beginning of COVID-19. Germany also shipped ventilators to the country. Additionally, the World Health Organization shipped COVID-19 vaccines to Brazil to ensure vaccine equity.

Brazilian Soccer Players Fighting COVID-19

After seeing their country’s desperate situation, Brazilian soccer players are coming together to support the fight against COVID-19. In April 2020, footballers such as Neymar and Alisson as well coaches and the country’s football federation (CBF) came together to donate approximately $1 million to vulnerable families struggling economically during the pandemic.

In a statement on the CBF website, Neymar says, “In difficult times like these, lots of families need help, our help.” A group of 57 soccer players and staff members as well as former FC Barcelona player, Dani Alves, collectively donated $463,787. The donation went to three organizations supporting the most impoverished and crowded cities in Brazil, enough to provide two months’ worth of hygiene products and nutrition to 32,000 households.

The Brazilian football manager, commonly known as “Tite,” urged fans and other athletes to support the effort. Prior individual fundraising efforts from Zico and Paulo Roberto Falcao successfully accumulated millions in donations.

Securing Vaccines

In April 2021, Club Athletico Paranaense joined others in helping Brazil fight COVID-19. The Athletico club expressed its willingness to “buy COVID-19 vaccines and make them available to fans with paid-up memberships, as well as players and officials, free of charge.”

This idea comes after the Brazilian congress allowed private sectors to purchase the vaccine. Although the club did not mention how many members it holds, estimates predict numbers of 20,000-30,000 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, the Athletico club also called on other soccer clubs to help Brazil in its battle against COVID-19.

Bolsonaro’s failure to adequately protect the country’s citizens from the impacts of the virus means Brazil now takes the title for the Latin American country with the highest number of pandemic-induced deaths. In order to assist a country in desperation, Brazilian soccer players are coming together to support the fight against COVID-19 in Brazil, standing in solidarity with the Brazilian people.

– Zineb Williams
Photo: Unsplash

Educational Disparities in Brazil
A number of organizations are working with local governments to combat educational disparities in Brazil. In 2021, people are living in a modern world that has deep connections to the internet, so a significant disparity for education in Brazil is access to connected technology. A majority of Latin American students lack access to digital devices with internet connections. A 2018 report stated that less than 30% of students in major countries including Brazil and Argentina had access to the web. One of the few countries with a majority of students connected to the internet is Chile. For context, around 18% of “remote rural” students in Mississippi lack internet connections. Students, especially those in extreme poverty, need access to the web, and educators need the proper equipment to teach their students.

Disparity Between Urban and Rural Students

A few factors play into the educational disparities in Brazil. The country invests one of the lowest shares of its GDP into primary and tertiary education. This may directly link to the fact that approximately 11.5 million Brazilians over the age of 15 are illiterate. A 2017 poll of public school teachers in Brazil found that “two-thirds of Brazilian public school teachers cite poor equipment as a reason for not using technological resources in the classroom.” Research shows that educational equipment and tools along with internet access at schools improve student academic performance. Meanwhile, rural students continue to have access to a limited number of technological resources. 

A large education disparity in Brazil exists between rural and urban students. Both rural and urban students transitioned from in-person to online school during COVID-19. However, teacher Ivonaldo Lopes de Araújo found that half of his class lacked access to the internet. Brazil’s government, international organizations and Google for Education are working to fix these issues.

Google for Education

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, created a program called Google for Education. The mission of the program involves “directing [its] products, people, programs and philanthropy toward a future where every student has access to the quality education they deserve.” Specifically, the program helps fund initiatives and institutions in Brazil that provide technology access for students and teachers. Colégio Agostiniano São José is a reference school for Google. The school has experience using Google Workspace and Chromebooks. The college services early childhood education and grade school educators and classrooms. Certified coaches run workshops for Brazilian educators, in which the coaches teach the educators how to properly utilize the technology in classrooms.

Google also spotlights Latin American innovation projects. In 2018, Google highlighted a few ways that the organization partnered with local governments in Brazil to make computers accessible to students and teachers in public schools. Carol Neris, a high school student, created an app called Hack Health, which gives users information about health resources near the students. The app shows doctor availability, vaccine availability and other information that bridges educational access gaps for locals. Other students from a reference school in São Paulo’s Colegio Magno developed a way to condense local water sources into drinkable water. The students even created a system to purify and use river water to grow vegetables for the cafeteria to use. Students and educators are using the technology resources available to enhance student education and improve local communities.

Resources from UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) outlined information and technology use in Brazilian education. The U.N. organization developed a program that works with regional governments and institutions to contribute resources to enhance the classroom. The program’s goals include providing policy support, training educators and promoting inclusive education that bridges economic and gender gaps. The program also collects statistics that help UNESCO develop and refine the program.

How Partnerships Help

Educational disparities in Brazil exist because of historical underfunding that has led to a limit on the technological resources available to educators and students. However, local education administrations that partner with Google and UNESCO help bridge the technology gap in public schools. While these programs cannot fix the lack of funding, the initiatives help promote technology and communication access in Brazil, which gives students and educators the necessary resources to succeed in this interconnected world.

Jacob Richard Bergeron
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 on Impoverished Populations in BrazilAs the impact of the COVID-19 on impoverished populations in Brazil continues, volunteers are providing support to community food pantries. Impromptu pantries are granting food to as many Brazilians as possible. Following the suspension of government emergency payments through the program Bolsa Familia, poverty in Brazil has quickly risen. The New York Times recently reported that Rio de Janeiro children have been begging for food at grocery stores while families huddle together in encampments. However, the pantries have alleviated some of the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic and suspended payments have brought on Brazil.

Bolsa Familia

In April 2020, President Jair Bolsonaro authorized emergency payments for millions of Brazilians. “It was a lifeline,” Jeronimo Rodriguez, a global economics student at Temple University, said in an interview with The Borgen Project. “It was very important for people, if they didn’t have this program, even more people would be [facing] problems.”

The government agreed to send 322 billion reais ($56 billion) to more than 60 million Brazilians registered with Bolsa Familia, the country’s pre-existing social welfare program. The government created Bolsa Familia in 2003 in an effort to reduce extreme poverty in Brazil. Monthly payment distribution was based on family composition and household income.

Emergency payment eligibility was originally based on Bolsa Familia eligibility, but the government expanded eligibility due to the pandemic. According to The Center for Public Engagement, this program helped more than 11 million families in Brazil.

However, in August 2020, budget cuts halved the monthly payments that helped reduce the impact of COVID-19 on impoverished populations in Brazil. Later, in December 2020, the government suspended payments. This put those previously living in poverty in Brazil at risk of crossing that line again. Aljazeera News reported that the second round of payments was to begin in April 2021.

The second round would have sent four monthly payments of 250 reais ($50) to families, but would not have covered as many people as the first round of payments. “There are millions of Brazilians, millions of people included in the first round of payments and now they have been kicked out,” said Rodriguez. 

Impact of COVID-19

President Jair Bolsonaro is still under scrutiny for his handling of the pandemic. Bolsonaro avoided lockdowns, kept businesses open and has been slow to secure vaccines. In addition, Brazil’s healthcare system proved to be unable to handle the pandemic. Brazil’s hospitals were lacking appropriate staffing, sufficient resources and privatized care. The lack of access to healthcare has strained those living in poverty in Brazil the most.

“They struggled a lot when we were in a ‘normal’ world, so the pandemic just made it clear that they’re living in horrible conditions up there,” Ygor Zanardo, an MBA student at West Chester University, said in an interview with The Borgen Project. Zanardo is from Brazil and is still in contact with friends and family there.

COVAX, an initiative to help equally distribute vaccines globally, donated its first round of vaccines to Brazil on March 2021. Expectations have determined that Brazil will receive more vaccine donations throughout the year. As of May 18, 2021, more than 17 million Brazilians have obtained vaccinations.

Political Crisis

According to Aljazeera News, the Brazilian Senate is currently investigating President Jair Bolsonaro for his handling of the pandemic. “The politicians there should focus on getting more vaccines and with a faster distribution of them while taking care of the individuals who are sick now with the right care that they deserve using public health,” said Zanardo.

Zanardo said the most effective way to offer assistance and alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on impoverished populations in Brazil would be to advocate for increased vaccines to the country. France and Sweden have recently donated vaccines to the COVAX Initiative. The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging other developing countries to participate.

– Monica Mellon
Photo: Flickr

brazil helps Venezuelan refugeesDue to the ongoing turmoil in Venezuela, many of the country’s citizens are fleeing for refuge in other countries in Latin America. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Venezuelan refugee crisis is among the worst in the world. Currently, more than 5 million Venezuelans are living in other locations because of issues in their home country. These issues include violence, poverty and a plethora of human rights concerns. Of the Venezuelans living abroad, around 2.5 million of them are living somewhere in the Americas. One country hosting these refugees is Brazil. Brazil helps Venezuelan refugees in several ways.

Brazil’s Relocation Efforts

Brazil has gone above and beyond for the Venezuelan refugees that have come to the country for refuge. Many of the Venezuelan refugees resided in the Brazilian northern state of Roraima. However, a relocation strategy that launched three years ago meant 50,000 refugees that were living in Roraima were relocated to other cities across Brazil. This effort is part of Operation Welcome and it has immensely improved the quality of life for Venezuelan refugees, according to a survey that the UNHCR conducted in which 360 relocated Venezuelan families participated.

Within only weeks of being relocated to a new city, 77% of these families were able to find a place of employment, which led to an increase in their income six to eight weeks after relocation. Quality of life improved for Venezuelans who partook in this survey. The majority of them were able to rent homes and just 5% had to rely on temporary accommodation four months following their relocation. This is a great improvement in comparison to the conditions refugees lived in before relocation. Before relocation, 60% of Venezuelan refugees had to rely on temporary shelter and 3% were entirely homeless. This relocation effort is a significant way in which Brazil helps Venezuelan refugees.

Brazil’s Social Assistance

Brazil helps Venezuelan refugees with its social assistance programs, specifically Brazil’s key conditional cash transfer program, Bolsa Familia. Social assistance programs are designed to help impoverished families, many of which are Venezuelan refugees. Currently, there are low but rising numbers of Venezuelans that are taking advantage of this program. According to the UNHCR, only 384 Venezuelans were using Bolsa Familia in January 2018. More than two years later, in February 2020, this number rose to 16,707. While the number could be higher, the past two years show an upward trend of Venezuelans using this important program to improve their living conditions in Brazil.

The Catholic Church in Brazil Assists

The Catholic Church in Brazil is providing its fair share of help to Venezuelan refugees. A center in the capital of Brazil is hosting Venezuelan migrants relocating from the refugee centers in the Amazon region. The center is receiving support from ASVI Brasil, which has a relationship with the Catholic Church, and Brazil’s Migration and Human Rights Institute. The effort was designed to support Operation Welcome, the Brazilian government’s initiative to address the Venezuelan migration crisis. The center will be able to house 15 Venezuelan families at a time and will rotate families every three months. The center will ensure working people from families have a safe place to live before moving on.

Brazil helps Venezuelan refugees by providing several forms of support. Many of these Venezuelan refugees have left their country because of unimaginable conditions of poverty and violence. The support from Brazil allows these refugees to avoid the hardships of poverty and secure shelter, basic needs and employment in order to make better lives for themselves.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Improving Water Access In BrazilThe South American country of Brazil has an abundant water supply. In fact, Brazil’s water supply makes up 20% of the entire water supply of the world. Brazil’s energy sector is significantly dependant on water as the country uses hydropower for 62% of its energy. Irrigation activities to preserve Brazil’s important agriculture industry uses 72% of Brazil’s water supply. Despite an abundance of water, many people in Brazil find it challenging to gain access to reliable water and sanitation. While the wealthier part of Brazil’s population has better access to water and sanitation, the more impoverished part of the population struggles with obtaining these resources. Due to the dire circumstances that disadvantaged people in Brazil find themselves in, organizations are dedicating efforts to improving water access in Brazil.

Water.org Assists

According to Water.org, three million Brazilians lack access to safe water. Lack of access to clean water and sanitation impacts the socioeconomic development of Brazil and also affects people’s health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, safe water access is vital for hygienic measures to prevent transmission of the virus.

Water.org is an organization dedicated to ensuring that people worldwide have access to safe water and sanitation resources. According to Water.org, financing can often be an obstacle to water access. In order to resolve this, Water.org implemented the WaterCredit Initiative loan program. By providing small loans, financial barriers are overcome and people have access to water and sanitation. Thanks to more than 15 years of WaterCredit’s efforts, more than 36 million people in 13 countries have access to safe water and sanitation facilities.

Lower-income communities in Brazil do not receive the same amount of financing as the wealthy. This makes the population even more vulnerable. Using the WaterCredit Initiative, Water.org has been able to provide safe water and sanitation for 107,000 Brazilians. With this success, Water.org plans on continually improving water access in Brazil.

Providing Water in Sao Paulo

The state of Sao Paulo in Brazil is heavily urbanized and susceptible to water shortages. To rectify this problem, the World Bank and partners devised the Sao Paulo Water Recovery Project. The project targeted communities around the five key watersheds of Sao Paulo and aimed to reduce the amount of water wasted and improve upon existing water systems. Furthermore, the project worked closely with water providers in Sao Paulo and was successful in many ways. Certainly, the project’s efforts helped to benefit almost 98,000 people by the project’s close in May 2017. The project was able to save 47 million cubic meters of water annually. The total amount of recovered water amounts to a water supply adequate for a city of 800,000 people, which reveals how successful recovery efforts were.

The efforts of organizations provide long-term solutions to improve living conditions for impoverished people in Brazil. By improving water access in Brazil, the right to water access is upheld and people are able to live better quality lives.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Unsplash

Chagas Disease in BrazilMore than 1 billion people in developing countries are sick and require treatment for Neglected Tropical Diseases, or NTDs. These are infectious diseases that have very little attention and donor funding compared to diseases like malaria, HIV and tuberculosis. NTDs can have debilitating results such as malnutrition, blindness, weakening mental development and more. They also tend to go hand in hand with poverty, because less access to clean water and sanitation allows these diseases to thrive. One of these diseases, Chagas disease, also known as “the kissing bug disease,” exists in the areas of Brazil where poverty is prominent.

“NTDs are not prioritized in wealthier, developed countries because they do not experience the same living conditions that affected populations are in, said Jadie Moon, a representative from NGO De-Neglect. “Diseases like HIV and tuberculosis are more prevalent in developed countries and attract more attention. Additionally, the public tends to focus more on diseases that kill such as malaria. However, NTDs are more likely to disfigure and affect [the] daily lives of individuals.”

History of Chagas Disease in Brazil

Chagas disease exists in the Americas, mainly in rural areas of Latin America where poverty is prevalent. It was first reported in Brazil by Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas in 1909. A parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which is transferred from the waste of triatomine bugs, or kissing bugs, causes the disease. The disease can also be spread through food that has been contaminated by the bug’s feces, infected blood transfusions and organ donations. This disease affects 8 million people today, and 20,000 people die from it every year.

From 2001 to 2018, 5,184 cases of acute Chagas disease were found in Brazil. The rate of infection recorded in Brazil annually was “0.16 per 100,000 inhabitants.” Studies show a rapid increase in records of Chagas disease before 2005. Though there was a drop from 2005 to 2009, there was another increase in infections after 2009.

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Chagas Disease

Though many NTDs are not considered life-threatening, the results of Chagas disease can be. The acute phase of the disease has minor symptoms. They include fever, swelling at the infection site, rash, nausea and enlargement of the liver or spleen. These symptoms will usually go away on their own, but if left untreated the disease can advance to the chronic phase.

The chronic phase is more serious and may occur 10 to 20 years after the infection. The parasites hide in the heart and digestive muscles, leading to cardiac and digestive or neurological disorders. Chronic symptoms include an irregular heartbeat, esophagus enlargement, difficulty swallowing, an enlarged colon and heart failure.

Around 20 to 30% of individuals who are in the chronic phase of Chagas disease eventually develop clinical disease. Usually, the clinical disease that develops is cardiac. Chagas disease is often discovered in an individual years after the infection in late stages, and once established it can cause severe, even deadly cardiac and digestive disorders.

“Because of the commonly asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic acute phase of infection, Chagas disease is difficult to diagnose, and often leads to missing the best time frame of treatment,” said De-Neglect members Jesse Chen and Helen Lee.

Prevention and De-Neglecting Chagas Disease in Brazil

One of the key methods in protecting people from Chagas disease – like any other NTD – is prevention. Methods of prevention in areas that are high-risk include:

  • Using bed nets that have been soaked with insecticide
  • Avoid sleeping in a mud, thatch or adobe house
  • Making home improvements to prevent bug infestation
  • Screening pregnant mothers, blood donations and testing organ/tissue/cell donations (as an infected individual can spread the disease to a healthy individual that way)
  • Washing, checking and cooking food well so there is no bug feces

De-Neglect

One of the best ways of preventing Chagas disease in Brazil is educating the public that lives in high-risk areas. A social media concentrated NGO in California called De-Neglect has a mission of doing just that. The organization has been around since 2018, formed by a group of UC Berkeley students and alumni. De-Neglect’s mission is to raise awareness and education about NTDs like Chagas disease, and how they affect communities in poverty. De-Neglect works to accomplish this goal through research, educating the public in health and participating in “community-based mobilization.” Their members are in contact with individuals and organizations from around the world and use their media platforms to raise awareness for NTDs like Chagas that affect areas like the rural communities in Brazil.

“I know someone who passed away due to Chagas disease almost 3 years ago in Brazil,” said De-Neglect team member Paula Serpa. “It is suspected that my friend acquired the infection due to his poor living conditions and, while playing a pickup soccer game, he suffered a heart attack and passed away.”

Growing the Organization

De-Neglect Team member Jessica Tin recounts the feat it took to form De-Neglect and build their network of collaborators. They faced certain roadblocks about finding accurate and up-to-date info for some NTDs. “Recently, we reached our next milestone with the release of our “What is scabies?” video and a social media campaign for World NTD Day, said Tin. “This was our first major moment in getting our name and mission out to the NTDs community as well as to our personal circles, where most of our friends and family had never even heard of NTDs before. Seeing our impact has given us extra momentum to continue our mission by expanding our network and educating the community.”

Lessening the Impact of Chagas in the Future

“Given that NTDs are concentrated in developing, poverty-stricken countries, their management often takes up most of a person’s existing and potential wealth,” said De-Neglect Team Member Jessica Yescas. “By providing solutions, such as medication and accessibility to medical care — as well as raising awareness through education — the possibility of alleviating the perpetuation of poverty due to NTDs can become a reality.”

Those infected with Chagas disease in Brazil face additional challenges if they already struggle with poverty. If not provided reliable, affordable medication the results could cost them dearly. They can miss out on work and educational opportunities, pushing them further into poverty. Raising awareness for Chagas disease and other NTDs in areas impacted by poverty and putting them in the spotlight creates more opportunities to instill solutions, not allowing them to be neglected anymore.

Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr