With the pandemic Brazil’s hunger problem is now worse

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With the pandemic Brazil’s hunger problem is now worse

A study says that as many as six in ten Brazilians are finding it difficult to get enough food, writes Beatriz Miranda.


In Para State, a man moves his furniture because he couldn’t pay the rent after the food price inflation beginning in 2013.

Credit Lalo de Almeida/Folhapress/Panos

A study says that Covid-19 has made Brazil’s hunger crisis worse. Very little welfare help means that around 60 per cent of the country’s population – 125 million people – cannot get three good meals per day. This is up from 35 per cent who were not always getting enough food in 2004, and this means a reversal of the progress in 2014, when the UN removed Brazil from the World Hunger Map.

Research in April by the Brazilian Research Network on Food, Nutritional Sovereignty and Security says that the quality of meals is much worse for six in ten households. Fewer people can afford to buy quality food and people are eating 40 per cent less fruit, and 36 per cent fewer vegetables.

Many blame the government for not taking action on the economic impacts of the pandemic. Unemployment, no support for informal workers forced to stay home, and self-employed people shutting their businesses all make the problem worse.

Adriana Salay Leme is a hunger researcher at São Paulo University. She is volunteering in Quebrada Alimentada, a food help movement in São Paulo. She says, ‘In December, there was some federal emergency cash. After January, there was no emergency cash for months. There is a greater demand now.’

Emergency welfare has been unreliable - no allowance paid from January to March 2021. There is not enough emergency welfare - there are four payments of around US$28, and that is expected to last until July 2021. And it does not help those most in need - around 46 million people don’t have a bank account, internet access, or a taxpayer ID.

Many say that the pandemic shows how bad the government is in Brazilian. Leme says the problem began in 2016, ‘when a lot of social help stopped’. She gives examples of the now closed PNAE (National School Feeding Programme), CONAF (National Confederation of Family Agriculture), and Bolsa Família (Family Allowance – the world’s largest cash transfer scheme).

2016 was also when neoliberal government in Brazil returned, with President Michel Temer, who came to power after the impeachment process of social democrat President Dilma Rousseff. Temer preferred a privatization policy, which remains with president, Jair Bolsonaro. Temer introduced an austerity package that the UN says was an ‘attack on poor people’. Since then, the welfare state system that was in place in Brazil from 2003 to 2016 has been more and more at risk.

Renato Maluf was President at Brazil’s National Council of Food and Nutritional Security (also stopped by Bolsonaro). He says this was expected. In October 2020, he said, ‘There has been an economic crisis since 2015, which was worse after Temer took office... When you stop social programmes when economic conditions are getting worse, we know the result will be bad. And the pandemic has made things more difficult.’

The crisis also means that NGOs have had to help. Dozens, or even hundreds, of food campaigns across the country are distributing millions of meals, including Panela Cheia Salva, Tem Gente Com Fome, and Cozinhas Solidárias. But the demand is much bigger than the food people have given, and some food campaigns have waiting lists. René Silva is founder of NGO, Voz das Comunidades, in Rio de Janeiro. In March, she said, ‘The number of requests for basic food is very high. Our main challenge is to get more donations. We are still trying to deal with the waiting list. Lots of people are calling us asking for food, but there are fewer donations now.’



(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)