Brazil is Latin America’s strongest economy, but the country’s rate of poverty remains high.

Poverty disproportionately affects the young, which can be seen by the number of children who participate in Brazil’s labor force being at least twice as high as in any other country in Latin America. Furthermore, about a quarter of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

As a whole, about 35 percent of the population live in poverty, on less than two dollars a day, though rural poverty lies at about 51 percent. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) stated Brazil has about 18 million poor rural citizens, the largest number in the Western Hemisphere.

Poor communities in Brazil have no readily available access to education and health facilities. Water supply and sewage systems are, furthermore, generally inadequate, explained the IFAD.

According to the World Bank, more than half of poor Brazilians live in the Northeastern part of the country, but rural and urban areas both contribute to the national poverty level.

Moreover, the IFAD states in the Northeastern part of the country, 58 percent of the total population and 67 percent of the rural population live in poverty.

Households that are headed by women make up 27 percent of the rural poor, meaning that women and the youth are the most vulnerable groups in Brazil.

According to the CIA World Factbook, the global financial crisis hit Brazil hard in 2008 when it experienced two quarters of a recession. Global demand for Brazil’s exports had lowered and “external credit dried up.”

On the other hand, in 2010, Brazil was one of the first countries to begin a recovery. According to the World Bank, the strategy to end poverty in Brazil would include “targeting interventions to the Northeast and expanding child care and preschool facilities in poor neighborhoods.” Expanding childcare would further help women participate in the labor force.

If children in Brazil stayed in school longer, their chances of being poor vastly decreased, the World Bank said.

As for increasing minimum wage and unemployment insurance, the World Banks explained these would probably not be effective tools because few of the urban poor have labor cards.

All in all, rural development policies have improved in Brazil, but “they are not as pro-poor as they could be because the rural poor are still at a disadvantage in land markets.”

– Alycia Rock

Sources: The World Bank, Rural Poverty Portal, The Huffington Post
Photo: PBS


Brazil has earmarked $3.5 billion in public money for the construction or renovation of 12 stadiums in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The twelve stadiums which are spread throughout the country will host a total of 64 international football matches for the duration of the month long tournament.  Brazil is mortgaging the house in the hopes of luring millions of visitors to the region in the upcoming months, bringing increased economic returns to the country.

In the seven years Brazil has had to prepare for the World Cup, the country has been concentrating on constructing stadiums, upgrading the infrastructure, building hotels and beefing up national security. Unfortunately, not all developments have gone according to plan: the construction of at least six stadiums have been delayed or are behind schedule which has jeopardized further needed preparations for the events.

Not only has FIFA (the international governing body for football) voiced its concern for construction delays, protesters and worker strikes have questioned Brazil’s prioritization of public money towards the tournament. Protestors have petitioned for the government to use funds on improving public education, health care and transportation instead of funding the tournament. This deviation of public funds has sparked local criticism and contention for an international event that is meant to build global cooperation.

After the completion of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a few of the stadiums that were built for the event have become under-utilized and a source of local contention. For example, the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa now is home to a small South African Premier League team which has had high operational costs and low revenue, leading to local calls for its demolition.

The City of Manaus, deep in the Amazon Jungle, is in danger of building another future under-utilized World Cup Stadium. The city is building a $240 million futuristic stadium which will only be used for four group-stage matches. At a cost of $60 million per match and with only a few minor league football clubs interested in using the site in the future, the future sustainability of this project is in question. A local Manaus judge and president of the state prison system suggested renovating the quarter billion dollar football stadium into a prison. Other local leaders have scoffed at this idea and have maintained the future viability of the stadium for local culture, events, and sporting, but only time will tell.

Even with the challenges Brazil has faced for hosting the 2014 World Cup, there continues to be massive demand for tickets for the tournament. There have been 6.2 million ticket requests for the 64 matches, which is almost 5 million more than were requested four years earlier. Let’s hope that Brazil’s gamble at hosting the 2014 World Cup will boost economic growth of the country, trickling down funds to needed improvements in education, health care and transportation.

– Travis Whinery

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Bleacher Report

Passinho, a small step dance, is gaining incredible momentum in Brazil, specifically coming out of the outlying peripheries (slums) of Rio de Janeiro. The dance caught fire when it gained media attention through YouTube and news spotlights highlighting the Passinho dance craze. Passinho has been around for more than eight years, but it just recently entered mainstream and can be seen on many ads and television commercials. The dance has grown so big that a number of major competitions are held throughout Brazil hosting hundreds of youths passionate about Passinho. The dance is a mixture of break-dancing, funk, pop, and traditional dances like the samba, pagode, and frevo. Many young people perform Passinho barefoot.

Rio de Janeiro is home to approximately 11.7 million people. The city is largely made up of poor shanty settlements. Rio de Janeiro faced a rapid push in urbanization, resulting in a major influx in migration, which ultimately led to a shortage in housing. The housing shortage has forced people to construct their own homes out of scrap materials, which are temporary places of living commonly known as favelas. The housing conditions in the favelas are extremely poor, with families often sharing only one tap, and forced to live without proper sewage maintenance.

The shanty settlements of Rio de Janeiro have been home to large amounts of violence, crime, and drug use. Before Passinho became widely popular, youths would engage in drug trafficking and violence to get them through the day. Now that Passinho has taken center stage in Rio, youths have a healthy and fun alternative to the crime that once ruled the poor areas of Rio de Janeiro. Instead of getting involved in drug trafficking, youths are getting involved in the Passinho dance scene, which is broadcasted through YouTube and Facebook for fans all over the world to see.

The extensive popularity of Passinho is inspiring young people all over the world. It is showing the world that there are fun alternatives to crime that young people actually want to engage in, despite their poor living conditions. Passinho goes beyond the dance floor, bringing positive light into the lives of young people living in the favelas of Brazil.

– Chante Owens

Sources: Internet Geography, NPR, Black Women of Brazil
Photo: UOL Entertainment



View the biggest slums in the world.



Developing nations will soon receive aid in order to fight diseases like measles and rubella. Brazil has taken the initiative to sponsor a new vaccine. This new vaccine will combat both measles and rubella at the same time.

The vaccine will be delivered to developing nations mostly in Africa. The Vaccine will be made by Bio-Manguinhos and supported and funded by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz,) respectively. The plan was announced at a medical science conference sponsored by the Gates Foundation in Rio de Janeiro.

According to Brazilian health minister Alexandre Padhilha, Brazil is focused on investing and expanding its health sciences program. According to, Brazil is “following other leading emerging nations such as China and India in investing in biomedical technology to supply vaccines and medicines to developing countries at lower costs than those produced by pharmaceutical industries in developed nations.”

Researchers have estimated the vaccine will change health reports of developing nations.  According to reports collected by Bio-Manguinos, measles kills around 158,000 people each year. Most measles-related deaths are children under the age of five. In addition, contagious, viral diseases with symptoms similar to those of measles-such as rubella-can cause serious consequences to pregnant women and their babies.

Fortunately, Bio-Manguinos has spearheaded several dual-action vaccine projects. Because of their vast experience, the new vaccine is likely to be a success. Bio-Manguinos plans to produce  30 million doses per year of the new measles/rubella vaccine to supply developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

In addition, the Gates Foundation will grant $1.1 million to “support clinical trials and additional research.” The innovative vaccine will reach clinical trials within the next two years. It is expected to reach the world market by 2017.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Reuters, BBC

The inaugural Inspiration Gala Rio de Janeiro held this month raised more than $600,000 for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.  The gala is part of the Inspiration series, which has held multiple other galas in New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo, and Miami.  This year saw the addition of Rio and Toronto to the list of worldwide locations.

“The Inspiration Gala Series: A Celebration of Style” was launched in 2010 by amfAR and Josh Wood Productions, as a worldwide fundraising event to benefit amfAR.  To date the Inspiration series has raised more than $10 million for AIDS research. The $2,500-a-plate Rio black-tie gala was hosted by supermodel Linda Evangelista and included performances by Preta Gil and Ana Carolina. Academy Award winning actress Goldie Hawn and Fashion Designer and amfAR Chairman Kenneth Cole also served as Honorary Chairs. A portion of the proceeds from the benefit will specifically benefit a local Brazilian organization called Pela Vidda, which is dedicated to improving the lives of those with HIV/AIDS.

A live auction of exclusive luxury items was held during the benefit, including tickets to the French Open semifinals, a stay at the Chateau de Saran owned by the Moet & Chandon champagne family, and a Linda Evangelista autographed gold-leaf covered Moet & Chandon Imperial Jeroboam (which sold for $30,000). The exact amount raised was not announced, but local news reports estimated around $1 million. AmfAR fundraising events are lavish affairs that have raised over $350 million in the past 25 years.  A wide range of events is held, including cocktail receptions, store openings, art auctions, and international galas.  Their annual dinner during the Cannes Film Festival has come to be known as the Who’s Who of the movie industry. The millions of dollars that amfAR has invested in HIV/AIDS research has led to pioneering research and development of new treatments, preventative medicines and vaccines, and has also played a role in clinical studies and securing passage of key legislation.

The latest global statistics indicate that 33.4 million people are currently living with HIV/AIDS, 97% of which reside in low-income countries.  While most people living with HIV/AIDS still do not have proper access to prevention, care, or treatment, there have been successes in terms of a global effort to address the epidemic. The United States government has also taken on this cause in the form of research and development, technical assistance and financial support.  Among the largest commitments by any nation to combat a single disease internationally is the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).  PEPFAR is the largest component of the U.S. Global Health Initiative, which focuses on improving the health of women, newborns and children.

– Rifk Ebeid

Sources: AMFAR, JoshWood, BigStory, AIDS
Photo: My Daily

Ranked the third largest source of slaves in the Western Hemisphere behind Mexico and Colombia, Brazil‘s human trafficking situation is grim. In 2009, the Brazilian Federal Police estimated that 250,000 to 400,000 children are exploited by domestic prostitution. An estimated 75,000 Brazilian women and girls work as prostitutes throughout neighboring South American countries, the United States, and Europe–most of them are trafficked. Additionally, around 25,000 Brazilians, mainly rural workers, are enslaved domestically each year.

As Brazil emerges as an economic powerhouse, it’s human trafficking situation only worsens. More migrants from neighboring countries and as far away as Asia are increasingly attracted to the promise of jobs in Brazil. Many of them are duped by traffickers into exploitative work situations. Preparations for the upcoming Olympic games and World Cup are significantly driving up labor needs and fueling exploitative labor practices. Just last month, an investigation into the expansion of Sao Paulo international airport discovered migrant workers in “slave-like” conditions.

Fortunately, this has not gone unnoticed by the Brazilian government. The government announced its first anti-trafficking plan in 2008 and introduced its second this year. The new plan includes tougher border controls, a revision of the penal code, and the training of 400 staff for victim services.

However, many are skeptical that the government’s funding and efforts will be enough. Enter: the Slavery, No Way! campaign. Since its launch in 2004, the Slavery, No Way! campaign has trained and provided on-going support to more than 2,200 educators and community group leaders, ultimately reaching over 60,000 people. Together with partners Reporter Brasil, Pastoral Land Commission, and Free the Slaves, Slavery, No Way! works to “enable communities to prevent trafficking of workers into slavery.”

In response to teachers’ asking for innovative approaches to engage children on the issue, Slavery, No Way! created a board game to teach children about trafficking and how to address it. In order to win, players must utilize dialogue, strategic thinking, and reason to end slavery outbreaks. The game emphasizes cooperation over competition and entails three lines of action: preventing vulnerable populations of Brazilians from becoming enslaved, aiding those already enslaved, and combating the root causes of slavery. Characters in the game include justice officials, activists, slaves, and traffickers.

Reports of human trafficking in Brazil have risen 1,500% in 2013 alone, according to government figures. Such a dramatic rise in reporting suggests that campaigns like Slavery, No Way! are bearing fruit in confronting Brazil’s stark slavery issue.

Kelley Calkins

Sources: Free the Slaves, U.S. State Department, In Sight Crime, BBC, UNODC, Slavery, No Way!

Asbestos, which has been mined for more than 4,000 years, was not largely distributed until the end of the 19th century. Today, armed with the knowledge about the dangers to human health that asbestos poses, production in the modern world has been brought to a halt. However, in many developing countries, particularly in Asia, many are surprised to hear that the use of asbestos has been increasing.

The world’s largest asbestos mine was the Jeffrey mine in the town of Asbestos, Quebec. Because of the preciousness of asbestos to the Quebecois economy, when results began to show the toxicity of asbestos, the Quebec Asbestos Mining Association (QAC) needed to find a solution preventing the stoppage of asbestos use. They turned to McGill University.

Professor J.C. McDonald, working for McGill’s Department of Epidemiology, was funded by a front organization set up by the QAC to research the effects of asbestos. His findings, using outdated and inaccurate techniques, demonstrated that exposure to chrysotile asbestos could give protection against cancer.

Despite the fact that no other scientist has been able to replicate McDonald’s data – even McDonald himself refuting his own findings, going so far as to admit that some of the data taken was thrown away until specific results were found – many companies continue to use his research to support the use of asbestos.

As such, every year, two million tons of asbestos are being put into homes and schools, ultimately causing a public health catastrophe to come.

Kathleen Ruff, founder of the human rights website, and senior advisor on Human Rights of Rideau Institute was joined by Professor David Egilman of Brown University, who is the President of Global Health through Education, Training and Service (GHETS), a NGO dedicated to improving health in under-served communities around the world, at a conference on October 1st at McGill.

Here, Egilman and Ruff addressed McGill’s “internal review” on McDonald’s study, which Abraham Fuks, McGill’s research integrity officer, concluded Professor McDonald to be “a pioneer in the demonstration of health hazards of asbestos.”

Fuks states that while it is true that McDonald’s project was funded by the asbestos industry, there was no collusion between the university and the asbestos industry.

Egilman contends noting, “[McDonald’s team] threw data out because it gave them wrong results.” And when they finally had data that matched up to what they wanted to prove, Ruff points out that “the industry [then] went on a mission to developing countries to get them to use chrysotile asbestos.”

The problems associated with asbestos-related risks are manifold. The previous installation and further dismantling of asbestos abroad lacks proper regulation and legislation, with many companies not respecting safety and proper execution. Consequently, exposure increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders.

Countries with economic ties to asbestos, such as Russia, India and Brazil continue to use McDonald’s information to lobby for increased use. Without an independent review of the research conducted and a final nay-say of McDonald’s results, it will prove difficult to put a stop to these organizations.

What started as a good PR strategy back in the 1960s has now exploded into one of the main justifications of continued global asbestos use.

GHETS, founded in 2002, places emphasis on “grassroot partnerships, sustainability and the development of primary healthcare infrastructure.” In association with many major institutions, GHETS funds training of local doctors and distribution of seed grants to for local business start-ups.

RightonCanada, an advocacy campaign to put human rights back on Canada’s political agenda, believes that Canada, when refusing to recognize the human right to water, aid in sabotaging a U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and block action to control export to developing countries of asbestos, among other things, has consequently become “a human rights saboteur.”

Chloe Nevitt
Feature Writer

Sources: Rabble, McGill Daily,McGill Daily, Global Labour University, CDC, Right on Canada, GHETS
Photo: Wikimedia

Since their creation, the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup have been two of the most celebrated traditions in history. Some flock to the world’s most beautiful cities to watch live; others crowd around television sets, anything to be a part of this phenomenon that unites the globe under the common love of sport. Avid sports fan or not, it’s safe to say that everyone relishes in seeing the best athletes in the world bring pride and honor to their home countries.

For many nations, the opportunity to host one of these popular mega-events is a chance of a lifetime. Not only do the cities have the prestige of having the whole world’s eyes on them, but becoming a host city is also a chance to revamp the national economy and improve infrastructure. Not to mention the immense prospects for tourism as fans come from around the world to watch these events.

Despite the seemingly happy exterior faces of these mega-sporting events, they unfortunately can take a toll on the host countries’ and host cities’ ways of life, including their economic development policy. Earlier this summer, millions of Brazilians flooded the streets of Brazil to protest the costs of the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games.

Protestors have cited the hosting of these events as an example of the government’s misplaced priorities. It is estimated that the World Cup will cost about $13.3 billion—a price tag for which no one but taxpayers will be responsible, even if it would make for good PR and instantly anoint Brazil as a global superpower.

However, protestors in Brazil do not find that kind of PR worth it at this moment in time. Even though the government promises that hosting the games and the World Cup will help to boost development in the country–by accelerating investments in infrastructure and improving services, governance, and local enterprise to international standards–critics say the money should be spent on grassroots development projects on health and education.

The mega events have already proved to be a problem in Brazil’s development policy. According to the Ford Foundation, many people in Rio de Janeiro have become worse off due to the numerous evictions in poorer communities in order to build infrastructure for the games. Also, less attention is being paid to improving the poorer communities and instead the focus is being put on increasing real-estate prices in upper-class areas where most of the infrastructure is being improved.

According to Leticia Osorio of the Ford Foundation, local communities need to be consulted with during these projects.  “They need to get civil society involved in discussions. That’s true for the government, but FIFA and the IOC (International Olympic Community) also have to change the way they assess bids to include human rights and better values.”

Even more recently, Qatar has come under fire for being awarded the 2022 World Cup bid. The desert nation, the richest country per capita in the world, has been accused of numerous human rights abuses concerning their treatment of migrant workers, an issue that the Internal Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) defined as “modern slavery.”

More than one million migrant workers in Qatar are victims of the “Kafala system” where employees are tied to a specific employer who controls the employee, even on the grounds of when and if they can leave the country. Migrant workers, who mostly hail from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, are denied their wages and are forced to work in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Yet they will be the ones building the construction projects for the World Cup.

In response to these growing criticisms, the government enacted the Migrant Workers Welfare Charter last October, which promises that all contractors and sub-contractors would guarantee strict standards of health and safety for migrant workers. The Qatar Foundation at the end of April also announced that mandatory minimum standards of welfare for the migrant workers would be enforced. Overall, the government hopes that the hosting of the World Cup will help to improve current conditions in Qatar.

“We have always acknowledged that the current state of workers welfare needs to be improved. From the beginning we have pointed to the power of football as tremendous catalyst for tangibly improving labour conditions in Qatar and the region at large,” the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said in a statement addressed to CNN.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles 

Sources: Huffington PostThe Globe and MailCNNThe Guardian

Moser lamp
In 2002, Brazilian mechanic Alfredo Moser figured out a way to illuminate his home without using electricity. His idea was simple— it involved clear plastic bottles filled with water and a small amount of bleach to protect the water from algae. After drilling a hole in his roof, Moser pushed the two-liter bottle up and through the hole, exposing it to sunlight. The water’s refraction of the sunlight created an illuminating effect equal to that of a 60-watt light bulb. Moser’s lamp is now being used to light up the world.

The MyShelter Foundation, an organization that brings sustainable building solutions to poorer regions of the Philippines, has used the Moser lamp to light up more than 140,000 homes. Use of the lamps has also spread to 15 other nations. MyShelter hopes to have one million lamps installed around the world by 2015. The organization also trains individuals to make and install the lamps, which helps them earn a small income. “Alfredo Moser has changed the lives of a tremendous number of people, I think forever,” said Illac Angelo Diaz, the executive director of MyShelter.

In fact, Moser’s lamp has the potential to change the lives of billions of people. The World Bank estimates that more than 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity. That means 20 percent of the world’s population cannot turn on the lights. Though Moser’s lamp can only be used during the day, it is beneficial for people who live in shacks and huts that are often dark and windowless. According to the United Nations, the lamp refracts light 360 degrees and can reach all corners of a 40 square meter room.

In terms of cost, most of the bottles are upcycled and the cost of installation is less than a U.S. dollar. The United Nations estimates the monthly electricity savings are almost $6. It would be difficult to find illumination that is cheaper or more sustainable than the Moser lamp.

Though Moser has earned little from his invention, it has been a great source of pride. In an interview with the BBC, Moser said that he could never have imagined that his idea would have such an impact on people throughout the world. “It’s a divine light,” he said. “God gave the sun to everyone, and light is for everyone. Whoever wants it saves money. You can’t get an electric shock from it, and it doesn’t cost a penny.”

— Daniel Bonasso

Sources: BBC , Liter of Light , United Nations

In this rapidly changing world, language continues to dictate relations. English speaking countries tend to display their close bond with one another, France shows affinity towards its former francophone colonies, and now, for the past decade, a growth in relations between Brazil and other lusophone African countries, such as Angola and Mozambique, has developed.

Linguistic ties are not all that bind Brazil with many African countries. While sharing a range of historical and cultural similarities, Brazil has sought relations with African states to strengthen its connection to the continent.

These relations began in the 1970s and grew more ambitious in the early 2000s. Starting in 2003 with the government of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil continues to invest in its relationship with African states, ranging from science and technology, to culture.

Despite boasting the 8th largest GDP in the world, Brazil is still considered a developing country due to enormous income disparities. Even with reductions in poverty during Lula’s Presidency, extreme poverty remains an issue.

Yet historical and cultural relations continue to make Brazil’s poverty reduction efforts stand out amongst other Latin American nations. It is this difference that Patrice Clédjo, professor at the University of Abomey-Calavi, points to as the difference between Brazil’s collaboration with African states and the traditional Western partnership. “Brazil’s cooperation with and aid to Africa is linked initially to a geopolitical ambition and economic interest, but also to the strong historical links and affinities with countries in Africa, relationships other emerging nations do not have with Africa,” states Clédjo.

With $9 billion in trade over the last decade, Harvard Professor Calestous Juma,  states embassies are vital to this trade. With 37 embassies out of 54 countries on the African continent, Brazil has combined diplomacy with scientific advancement.

Over time, Brazil has started to pinpoint health as a main focus of these scientific exchanges. One example of this exchange is the Brazilian foundation Fiocruz and its coordination in developing a Postgraduate Health Sciences program in Maputo, Mozambique. In order to accomplish this, Fiocruz has been working with the Mozambican National Health Institute to build capacity. In this example, post grad students in Maputo have an African and Brazilian supervisor and will later carry out an internship in Brazil.

With such partnering between countries, Brazil seems to be gaining both diplomatic and economic strength on the continent. As Brazil collaborates to develop facets of African industry, it is becoming an integral part of their economic independence.

– Michael Carney

Sources: SciDev.Net, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Africasti