Information and news on Brazil

Worst slums in the world
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a slum is “a densely populated usually urban area marked by crowding, dirty run-down housing, poverty and social disorganization.” The worst slums in the world have combinations of inadequate shelter, limited access to healthcare, sanitation, clean water and education.


Facts About the 10 Worst Slums in the World


  1. Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya (700,000 people)
    Kenya has many of the 10 worst slums in the world. Kibera is about five kilometers from the center of Nairobi and has been called Africa’s largest slum. Nearly half the population is without work, there is no garbage collection, and there is limited access to clean water.
  2. Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya (200,000 people)
    Mathare is one of Nairobi’s oldest slums, with residents dating back to the 1920s. This area lacks necessities such as electricity, roads, clean water and sanitation.
  3. Kawangware, Nairobi, Kenya (650,000 people)
    Kawangware is 15 kilometers west of the center of Nairobi. Poverty is a serious issue with most living on less than $1 each day. Most families can’t afford more than one meal a day so malnutrition is rampant. Disease, lack of clean water and lack of funds to afford education are also major problems.
  4. Kangemi, Nairobi, Kenya (100,000 people)
    Kangemi is home to some of Nairobi’s poorest. Lack of running water, high unemployment, drug addiction, alcoholism and HIV are significant issues in the area.
  5. Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa (400,000 people)
    Sanitation is a huge issue in Khayelitsha with thousands lacking access to toilets. Other issues include shack-style housing and the fact that 99 percent of the population is black due to “spatial segregation.”
  6. Orangi Town, Karachi, Pakistan (2.4 million people)
    Lack of housing isn’t as much of an issue as limited resources. Locals ended up building their own sewers after waiting on the government to build them. Now 96 percent of households have a toilet.
  7. Ciudad Neza, Mexico City, Mexico (1.2 million people)
    Locals have worked hard to form a sense of community and improve public services. The area is still in need of more employment, more transportation and more schools.
  8. Dharavi, Mumbai, India (1 million people)
    Dharavi is often regarded as the largest slum in Asia and is well known as the filming location for Slumdog Millionaire. Most residents have gas for cooking and electricity. Despite the area’s many struggles, it has a booming small business sector.
  9. Rocinha, Rio de Janiero, Brazil (200,000 people) Rocinha is the largest favela in Brazil. While most locals have electricity and running water, the larger issue is sanitation. The average monthly income is $240.
  10. Makoko, Lagos (40,000 – 300,000 people) Makoko is an area of six collective slum villages. Four of the villages are floating on water in the lagoon and two are situated on land. Issues that face this community include malnutrition, childbirth and diseases like malaria.

The 10 worst slums in the world face serious issues. One-fourth of those living in a city reside in a slum, this equates to more than 900 million people globally. With proper assistance, government reconstruction and international aid, many of the factors contributing to the creation of a slum can be extinguished.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr



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Brazilian Slums rio de janeiro facts
In 2016, the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro drew massive media attention to Brazil. While the majority of the media focus centered on the games themselves, concerns grew about Brazil’s dangerous climate, particularly in regard to the country’s slums. Below are facts about Brazilian slums.


Top Facts about Slums in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil


  1. The common term for a Brazilian slum is a favela. The name originated out of wartime, as soldiers during Brazil’s civil war sought temporary refuge on hills filled with favela plants.
  2. Favelas grew as migration increased. Since proper housing was too expensive for many immigrants, they turned to the poor, yet cheap, conditions favelas provided on the outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
  3. Approximately six percent of Brazil’s population live in favelas. Today, there are about 1,000 favelas in Rio and 1,600 in São Paulo.
  4. The typical favela has poor infrastructure, leading to difficulties in electricity and plumbing.
  5.  Disease is also rampant within favelas, as there is no standard for sanitation. Health risks may stem from overcrowding, pollution and a lack of waste disposal systems. Life expectancy within favelas is approximately 48 years, while the national average is 68.
  6. Poor living conditions within favelas often breed crime. Drug trafficking is common with most members being young male teenagers, who are four-fifths more likely to die before age 21, Joe Griffin of The Guardian reports.
  7. Gangs not only initiate wars amongst each other in Brazilian slums, but against police. There have been frequent shootouts between gangs and police, especially during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio when the state government was forced to employ numerous police pacification units (UPPs).
  8. Although UPPs originally heightened safety when initially introduced in 2008, they have recently been the center of much controversy, as civilian deaths have increased as a result of police misconduct.
  9. Despite these poor conditions, life in favelas is beginning to improve. NGOs, such as Community in Action, are focused on sustainable community development within these Brazilian slums.
  10. Many houses now have access to new technologies, such as television and the Internet. In addition, small businesses are making progress within their communities, most recently in the area of tourism.

Although progress appears underway, the Brazilian government must take more secure action to ensure that conditions within these Brazilian slums improve further.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Brazil Refugees
As the fifth largest country by both area and population, Brazil is the largest country in South America and Latin America and receives more refugees than any other country in the region. Brazil is also the only country in the Americas to have Portuguese as the official language.

The country is both a regional power in Latin America and a middle power in international affairs. Due to its recognition as an emerging global power, Brazil has been identified as a shelter to refugees and migrants. Here are 10 facts about Brazil refugees:

  1. As of 2016, Brazil has about 2,100 refugees living in the country.
  2. Brazil receives more refugees from Syria than any other country in Latin America.
  3. As of 2013, Brazil issued 8,000 humanitarian visas under more simplified conditions to allow survivors of the Syrian war to claim asylum in the country.
  4. Due to these visas, Brazil has had approximately 2,000 refugees settle in the country.
  5. Brazil refugees are able to receive informal, temporary employment in the services and retail industry.
  6. Brazil refugees are considered by some to be an unnecessary cost and security threat due to the country’s deep economic recession.
  7. Refugees claiming asylum in Brazil have higher education than the average Brazilian.
  8. The Brazilian government wants to limit the intake of refugees due to the country’s economic woes.
  9. Brazilian refugees will now be faced with the country’s recalibration of its foreign policy.
  10. Brazil’s refugees have the right to work, access to education and health care.

In recent years, Brazil has been praised for the country’s humanitarian efforts and openness to asylum seekers. As of recently, questions of the country’s ability to aid refugees have plagued the government amid the country distancing itself from developing nations and experiencing the worst recession in its memory.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Yellow fever is a potentially fatal disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Though the disease can be treated, Brazil has experienced a number of deaths that have caused people to label the yellow fever outbreak that began in December of 2016 a state of emergency. Here are some important things to know about the yellow fever outbreak in Brazil:

What is yellow fever?

Yellow fever is a virus transmitted by infected mosquitoes. It is rare and usually includes mild symptoms, such as fever, muscle and back pain, headaches, shivers, loss of appetite and nausea or vomiting. Most people can recover after being monitored in a hospital and treated with fluids and rest. However, 15 percent of victims can develop into a second stage with more severe symptoms, such as high fever, jaundice, bleeding and organ failure. Almost 20-50 percent of those patients die.

How many people has the virus infected?

According to the Pan American Health Organization, there have been at least 320 confirmed cases and at least 220 deaths. There are more cases undergoing investigation. While the number might not seem drastic compared to the overall population, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that this is the worst case of a yellow fever outbreak since 2000.

What caused the outbreak?

A Mosquito species called “aeses aregypti”, which is the same mosquito that caused the Zika outbreak in Brazil between 2015-16, has been spreading to monkeys in the jungles, which then passed on to humans. According to zoologists, the virus has killed 600 monkeys in the Atlantic rain forest region, and rare primate species are facing a threat to their survival rate.
Since the start of the yellow fever outbreak, around 64 cities in Brazil have called for a state of emergency, including the state of Minas Gerais. The Ministry of Health assisted the state with investigations, vector control and coordination of health services. There have also been house immunization campaigns in rural areas.

How can we curb this outbreak?

Brazil can still survive this yellow fever outbreak in the same way it handled the Zika outbreak. Brazil’s Health Ministry ordered 11.5 million doses of the yellow fever vaccine, yet a shortage remains. While the vaccines can be effective, they are not routinely offered in major urban cities. However, millions of people have already been vaccinated, so there is hope the disease will not spread much outside of the country or into parts of the United States. The World Health Organization recommended that travelers be vaccinated for yellow fever.
While there are major concerns about the recent yellow fever outbreak in Brazil, if the Ministry of Health can make sure nearly everyone is vaccinated, perhaps the disease can be put under control.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Farmers in BusinessBrazil’s government has recently been attempting to tackle its economic recession by offering Brazilian farmers and ranchers $8 billion in financing. The country is slowly transforming into a crop-exporter. Not only is the government investing more money in the agricultural sector, but it is also paying Brazilian farmers to produce food for children enrolled in government schools.

As many as 45 million students are being fed by what is the world’s largest universal school feeding program. The program was originally developed in the 1950s, in response to Brazil’s “zero hunger” initiative. A quarter of the country is currently receiving free meals through this program, and the Brazilian farmers are benefiting directly from the government, as well.

For the past three years, farmers have been able to cut out the middlemen and form an agreement directly with the government. Before, farmers had to make unfulfilling deals with the middlemen on whom they depended to sell their produce.

Brazilian farmers who have a school feeding contract with the government have seen their fortunes increase thanks to a dependable local market and formalized land rights nationwide. The contracts outline the required amount of food that the farmers need to produce and how much money the farmers will get in return. This gives farmers the certainty to plan for investment in new essentials and technology. Overall, incomes have increased significantly due to the resourceful and thoughtfully formulated plans made by the government.

The other small farmers with no formal land title deeds still benefit from the program because of their direct relationship with the state through the school feeding program. These small farmers, with the income they receive from the government, are able to take steps towards gaining title deeds.

In 2009, Brazil introduced a new law that requires schools to spend at least 30 percent of their meal budgets on produce from small farms. Many schools are now giving priority to small, local farms, and 70 percent of food consumed in Brazil comes from small farms. Before these changes were made to help small, local farms in Brazil, the market for school meals was primarily dominated by big food companies, and by middlemen who would exploit small farmers’ business.

Brazil is better known for its large industrial farms which produce the country’s top export commodities such as sugarcane, oranges and soy. However, most food consumed by Brazilians is grown by small family farms. These family farmers are often poor and cannot compete with industrial farms. Thus, they are inevitably forced to give up their farms and move to cities in search of better job opportunities.

The new school feeding program has not only helped keep children well fed, but has also cut government spending on school meals by cutting out the middlemen, and has increased the income for Brazilian farmers. Brazil is making great progress in trying to fix its economy by investing in agriculture and, more specifically, small family farms that feed the country.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

How Dilma Rousseff's Impeachment Impacts People Living in Poverty and What Can Be Done to Help
Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil since 2011, has been impeached after breaking rules surrounding manipulation of the federal budget. More specifically, it is believed that she masked the full extent of Brazil’s economic crisis when she ran for re-election in 2014.

Prior to Rousseff’s impeachment, she argued that if she were to be impeached, Brazil’s economic troubles would only worsen. This is because a governmental change this big is felt most strongly by the poorest in society, who are most dependent on the federal government.

Rousseff’s successor, Michel Temer, stated that he hopes to reduce public spending by increasing taxes on the lower and middle classes. He also stated that social programs aiding the poor will not be immune from budget cuts.

One example of a social program helping Brazil’s poor is Bolsa Familia. During her tenure, Rousseff was an advocate for this program, which gives stipends averaging $50 per month to 47 million Brazilian citizens — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population. Dilma Rousseff had recently increased spending toward this program by 9 percent and had also reworked the definition of poverty in order to allow more people to qualify for benefits.

The only conditions for citizens to receive Bolsa Familia’s benefits are that their children be vaccinated and regularly attend school. Despite the fact that the funds help lift people out of poverty and improve community infrastructures, the social program still requires public spending.  According to Temer, this kind of program will not be immune from spending cuts, which could seriously impact the millions of citizens who rely on government assistance for survival.

On a more hopeful note, Temer is confident that he can help Brazil make an economic recovery, despite the ramifications the poor may face. He intends to reform Brazil’s costly pension system, possibly by defining a minimum age of retirement.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with Temer’s ideologies and proposed policies, it is reasonable to believe that major policy changes are the only way to get out of an economic depression. Temer has been vocal about his preparedness to make these major policy changes. While they may negatively impact Brazil’s poorest citizens in the short run, the country’s economy may ultimately recover, resulting in a better quality of life for all.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Tackling Brazil's Income Inequality
Almost 10 percent of Brazilians live under the extreme poverty line. This is coupled with extreme inequality of income distribution. Recently however, Brazil showed a tremendous progress towards redistribution of wealth. Even though there isn’t any considerable average increase in gross domestic product (GDP), efforts to reduce poverty exist along with overcoming Brazil’s income inequality. This counts as an important step toward achieving the millennial development goals.

This change in Brazil’s income inequality resulted from improvements in education. The government tried to reduce the gap between skilled and unskilled labor. Thus, the supply of skilled labor increased. This helped more families get out of poverty by earning higher wages. Another factor was using social policies that provided small transfers to low-income families.

Brazil is apparently following the trend in Latin America as the whole continent is fighting poverty. Latin American society is becoming more aware of the harmful effect of inequality on the whole global economic growth. However, Brazil’s progress is unique. Their inequality is far higher than many advanced countries and can do more to improve its situation.

One positive aspect is that Brazil‘s economy is very inclusive. With new policies bringing more labor to the market, Brazil’s economy will strengthen. However, the business environment is not very encouraging. Many people view entrepreneurial failure as an embarrassment and not necessarily a learning experience.

The World Economic Forum during a 2015 report explained that education must be reformed as well and more students from low socioeconomic background should be included.

Brazil’s income inequality gap is narrowing. Media focused recently on the events of a World cup and the Olympic Games but on the other side, Brazil socioeconomic conditions were becoming better. This is remarkable as Brazil was on the brink of collapse due to the global economic financial crisis. The model of socio-economic development that Brazil used can be applied in other countries such as Zambia or Nigeria.

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr

Brazilian Education Reform
Brazil had a series of tumultuous months with the impeachment of former President Dilma Rousseff and installment of current President Michel Temer. Brazilian education reform is one of the main issues from the previous administration that Temer and his government want to change.

Ambitiously, on Sept. 23, Temer proceeded to restructure the educational model for Brazilian public schooling. Currently, the high school dropout rate in Brazil is at 11.9 percent, and the new president hopes that a new approach will reduce that number.

The new plan is becoming a controversial issue in Brazil due to its radical change in curriculum. The Ministry of Education published the proposed changes in high school curriculum without adjustments to the Official Diary of the Union.

The proposed plan states that the mandatory classes are designed to include Portuguese, English and mathematics. The new education initiative vaguely mentioned the natural sciences, leaving it unclear if they will be required courses as well.

Article 26, paragraph 2 and 3 state that art education will be compulsory and part of the curriculum for both early childhood and primary education. However, it is unclear whether art study will be a high school requirement.

In addition to the arts, the discussion of removing physical education from the curriculum is also a possibility.

Depending on a student’s interests, classes focused on foreign languages, natural sciences, humanities and vocational studies will be offered as options. The reasoning behind the change in programs is to engage students in becoming more proficient in the one area of study that calls their attention.

It is hopeful that recent Brazilian education reform will yield positive results despite the skepticism it has received. The influence of this ambitious program will be understood as more development details are released.

Mariana Camacho Lopez

Photo: Flickr

Gender-Based Violence in Brazil
According to the U.N., gender-based violence in Brazil is a major issue. A woman in São Paulo is assaulted every 15 seconds. A group of girls from Maranhão, Brazil hopes to change that.

The girls are participating in Plan International’s Girl Leadership Project. Part of the initiative entails getting involved in local government and petitioning congresspeople for change. 18-year-old participant Luanna Natalia spoke her mind on the issue of gender-based violence and discrimination.

“No woman or girl deserves to suffer violence or prejudice just because they’re female,” Natalia said. “We can only achieve equality if we work together to build a better world and a better society in Brazil.”

Gender-based violence is not just a problem in Brazil. It affects women worldwide. According to the U.N., as many as 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes. This pandemic undermines the safety, stability and security of all women, not just those personally affected. It also presents a serious issue in terms of global poverty. Women generally make up half a country’s potential workforce. Gender-based violence can:

  • Prevent women from working due to illness, injury or fear;
  • Increase lost wages, as well as health care, police and legal expenditures;
  • Limit women’s access to reproductive health care and family planning, making work difficult after pregnancy;
  • Increase the likelihood of miscarriages, stillbirths or abortions;
  • Force women to have more children than they’d like (these children may also experience a lower quality of life, putting more strain on a developing country’s already sparse resources).

In order to more actively fight gender-based violence, the U.N. proposed a Millennium Development Goal to promote gender equality and empower women by 2015. In 2015, the U.N. reiterated this sentiment in its Sustainable Development Goals, reflecting the work that still needs to be done by 2030.

Plan International’s Girl Leadership Project represents a promising step toward ending gender-based violence in Brazil and elsewhere. By raising awareness and empowering girls to advocate on behalf of themselves and other women, Plan International and other organizations are working to convince world leaders that the problem of gender-based violence deserves more attention. In the words of Natalia, “If we stand together, it proves we are not in this fight alone.”

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in BrazilAll eyes are on Brazil as the nation finalizes preparations for the Olympic Games while attempting to solve a decades-long water pollution crisis. According to 2016 statistics, only 65 percent of sewage was treated before reaching Rio de Janeiro’s waters; a number far behind the 80 percent officials pledged when Brazil first received the Olympic bid.

Efforts have been made to clean the waters near the Olympic stadium, but local waters remain as polluted as before.

“We’ve just been forgotten,” says Irenaldo Honorio da Silva during an interview with The Atlantic Magazine. A resident of Rio de Janeiro, Da Silva lives in one of 1000 favelas — informal housing structures that hold more than 1.5 million people. The low-income inhabitants of these favelas lack adequate sanitation systems, a problem faced by 30 percent of the Rio population.

“About three times a week, sewage overflows and trickles down the streets past the houses” Da Silva explains. When it rains, water pipes crack open and streets are flooded with filthy water.

Those who come into contact with contaminated water risk contracting diseases like hepatitis, worms, diarrhea and tetanus. More than 400,000 Brazilians were hospitalized in 2011 for illnesses related to the poor water quality in Brazil.

Olympians are bracing themselves for venues riddled with disease-causing viruses, which, according to the Associated Press (AP), “measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.” The AP also found that those who ingest as little as three teaspoons worth of infected water have a 99 percent chance of infection.

Nevertheless, the risks for international athletes begin and end with the Olympic Games; Brazilians deal with these problems for life. Water quality is thus a critical issue that needs to be addressed.

Every year 217,000 workers miss an average of 17 hours of work due to gastrointestinal issues; infections caused by poor sanitation. Many children miss school for the same reason.

In fact, studies from institutions like the University of Chicago show that children with access to proper sanitation have higher educational attainment rates than those without. Furthermore, Trata Brasil, an organization dedicated to bringing universal sanitation to Brazil, recently revealed that a lack of proper sewage disposal was linked to lower life expectancies for citizens.

“The problems in [a favela] may be due in part to a lack of consciousness from its own people,” Marcello Farias notes during an interview with Huck Magazine in Rocihna, his hometown and one of the largest favelas in Rio. The majority of Brazilians cite health, security and drugs as the nation’s most pressing issues.

Diogo Rodrigues, a fellow Rocihna native, explains in the same interview that “if the government doesn’t do anything, [we] are the ones that have to be in charge.” He has worked with other favela residents to create different solutions to the water pollution crisis.

For example, the Surfer’s Association in Rodrigues’ hometown not only teaches local children how to surf, but also offers environmental lectures and beach clean-ups. Meu Rio, an advocacy organization, holds demonstrations to raise awareness. In 2014, members sat on toilets on Guanabara Bay beaches every weekend for three months to shed light on the problem with water quality in brazil.

However, many view cooperation between the government, local authorities and civilians as the answer to improving water quality in Brazil.

Government officials announced that they plan to install eight sanitation plants in Olympic venues and upgrade favela water systems. Research from the University of São Paulo shows that investing in sanitation has other beneficial effects — it is more effective at alleviating poverty than spending on education, social security or welfare.

Change often occurs slowly. However, David Barbosa, a professional body boarder from Rocihna, encourages everyone to “keep up the momentum.”

“We may not always succeed, but we ‘gotta’ keep trying.”

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr