How Brazil’s Floods Affect Poverty
Brazil is a country that is prone to flooding due to its extensive river systems, tropical climate and deforestation. Flooding had significant impacts on poverty in Brazil, affecting vulnerable populations and exacerbating existing social and economic inequalities. Brazil suffered an economic loss of $6.1 billion during 142 flooding events from 1900 to 2016. The World Bank reported that an estimated 2.75 million people in Brazil lived in extreme poverty from 2016 to 2021. The country’s GDP per capita has decreased dramatically since 2017, falling from $9,896 falling to $7,507 as of 2021.
Displacement & Infrastructure Damage
Flooding in Brazil often results in the displacement of people from their homes, particularly those living in informal settlements or slums known as favelas. The Organisation for World Peace (OWP) reported 4,000 residents of Sao Paulo facing displacement after ongoing flooding in February 2023. Recent flooding and landslides have damaged and/or destroyed infrastructure and communities in the regions of Sao Sebastiao, Barra do Sahy, Juquehy, Camburi, Boicucanga and Ubatuba.
Water infrastructure has been either destroyed or severely damaged leading to authorities delivering drinking water in tank trucks throughout the affected areas, according to Worlds Aid. Flooding causes infections and bacteria to rampage through communities, with the most common being waterborne diseases, but others such as tetanus and bacterial infections are also present. The National Library of Medicine reported that from 2010 to 2014, Brazil had a total loss of R$ 9.2 billion ($1,845,240,412.00) due to flooding damages.
Vulnerable communities such as indigenous populations face greater challenges when dealing with the impacts and recovery of flooding. These communities are less likely to gain access to health care services, and this exposes them to waterborne diseases.
Brazil’s agricultural sector has seen devastating declines since 2003, falling as low as 4.1% in 2010. However, reports in 2021 have shown an increase to 6.9%, the highest since 1994. The biggest influencer of this is climate change and floods, affecting vulnerable rural communities like farmers and creating further poverty in Brazil in these sectors.
The World Bank has provided over $100 million in an investment project to mitigate natural disasters in southern Brazil with the intent to construct disaster-prone economic hubs. Around 800 municipalities in the Southern regions are eligible to strengthen their urban resilience through this trust fund investment. In June 2022, the EU allocated a humanitarian fund of $1 million to several Brazilian municipalities which the floods affected. It provided for the rebuilding of infrastructure like schools and houses.
CAF America works with nonprofit organizations to establish funding and support for Brazil. Acao Cidadania, a humanitarian organization, has donated more than 200 tons of food and water amid the ongoing flooding crisis in Sao Paulo in 2023. And in December 2021, the Brazilian Red Cross launched the DREF operation in response to the heavy flooding and extreme weather that declared 155 of 417 municipalities in a state of emergency in Bahia. The Red Cross distributed vouchers to 800 families that covered the necessities. The organization provided 800 blankets and 300 mattresses to affected families, administered first-aid to more than 300 people, provided mental health and psychosocial support to 800 evacuated families and distributed water filters to 800 households.
With many residents prone to flooding, extreme poverty in Brazil is an issue that still affects vulnerable and poor communities. However, humanitarian groups continue to make efforts to provide additional support for those affected.
– Joshua Rogers