The word hunger once again haunted the poorest Brazilians. In addition to the worsening of the pandemic and the impact of Covid-19’s nearly 4,000 daily deaths, there is a perfect storm in this chaos that also puts your food security at risk: high inflation, unemployment and the absence of emergency aid – at least at a level allow the purchase of a basic basket.
Brazil left the so-called Hunger Map in 2014 with the wide reach of the Bolsa Família program – a study by Ipea (Institute of Applied Economic Research) based on data from 2001 to 2017 showed that, over the course of 15 years, the program reduced poverty by 15% and extreme poverty by 25%. However, the country should return to the geopolitics of misery in the balance sheet for 2020.
The Hunger Map is a survey made and published by the UN (United Nations) on the global situation of food shortages. A country enters this survey when malnutrition affects 5% or more of its population. Venezuela, Mexico, India, Afghanistan and virtually all African nations appeared on the map for 2019.
Brazil has been left out, although data from the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) showed that, already in 2018, after years of political turbulence and meager economic growth, hunger was once again spreading. Now, with the outbreak of the pandemic and its economic and health consequences, it will be difficult to escape.
According to Daniel Balaban, representative in Brazil of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and Director of the Center of Excellence against Hunger, the Brazilian situation is very worrying. He projects that Brazil is close to 9.5% of its population with undernourishment.
“Brazil’s condition had been deteriorating before the pandemic, due to budget cuts in social policies, political and economic crises. The pandemic only accelerated and worsened this situation, ”said Balaban. CNN.
Measures to collect food are spread across the country among public authorities, companies, churches and civil society organizations. As recent examples, there is the Porto Alegre City Hall, which started a collection campaign in the vaccination drive-thrus queues against Covid and the São Paulo team, which started this Wednesday (31) collection of donations in the Morumbi.
In addition, Fiesp (Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo) and Sesi (Social Service for Industry) created a campaign in the interior of São Paulo; the NGO Banco de Alimentos has been carrying out daily collection work; and dioceses throughout the country have also enlisted contributions among the faithful. The movement Has hungry people, supported by Amnesty International and several other NGOs, uses artists’ social networks to cry out for help. These are initiatives that have not been seen for a long time in Brazil and date back to campaigns prior to the 2000s.
A temporary relief
Approved by Congress, the emergency aid sanctioned in April 2020 by President Jair Bolsonaro, of R $ 600 per month, helped the low-income population to face the risk of hunger last year. According to studies by researcher Daniel Duque, from the Institute of Economic Studies of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (Ibre-FGV), with the help of the poorest sectors, the country has seen an important reduction in extreme poverty and poverty. This is because the replacement of income was, for many, above what was the average income.
But the benefit ended at the end of the year – the country’s fiscal accounts did not allow, according to the government, the extension of the payment. After three months without the benefit, Brazil plunged, according to Duque, into a scenario of rising extreme poverty worse than it was in 2019. “We are already seeing a dramatic increase in poverty and extreme poverty at the beginning of 2021, still let it not be hunger ”, says the researcher.
With the rapid impoverishment and a second more lethal wave of the pandemic, the government, impacted by the sharp drop in popularity indexes, signed on March 18 three Provisional Measures that recreated the benefit, with a lower value, from R $ 150 to R $ 375, but that should at least avoid the hunger of those who receive the aid, points out Duque. Payment for this new batch will be made in four installments and begins on April 6.
UN’s Balaban adds that without a long-term policy against hunger, the risk of food insecurity is permanent. “Aid is essential and this delay in approval puts the situation at risk. But the problem is that everything becomes artificial. Perennial public policies are needed to combat poverty, regardless of the government, or the country is a dog chasing its tail, ”says Balaban.
Duke also predicts that, with the pandemic worsening, a new wave of layoffs is likely to happen, and people who did not need the aid last year will now need it. “These people can go through a more dramatic situation”, explains the researcher.
The wage bill, an indicator that measures the pie of income related to work received by the population, without including benefits such as aid, already had in January the second consecutive monthly reduction, according to IBGE data. In addition, the increase in the Broad Consumer Price Index (IPCA) in the food group, in 12 months, was 15% – almost triple the general index.
“With the rise in food prices and the price of gas cylinders reaching R $ 100, for many people the choice was made between buying food and cooking it,” says André Perfeito, chief economist at Necton Investimentos. “From any point of view, it becomes a catastrophic situation for the poorest strata, since the price increases are concentrated on essential products and with greater weight for these social strata.”
For Marcelo Medeiros, professor at the University of Brasilia (UnB) and visiting researcher at Princeton University, in the United States, Brazil has historically never failed to have important food security problems, even though in the last decade the scourge of hunger has entered into a reduction moment.
“Hunger, in the extreme sense of the word, had fallen a lot. But the new hunger became obesity and poor diet: about a third of the Brazilian population lived under food insecurity, and that number probably increased in the pandemic ”, says Medeiros.
According to the professor, the pandemic is the origin of the crisis in the economy and, without controlling the health crisis, the economy will go bad. “To reverse this, an income guarantee program, free distribution of masks and, most obviously, to take vaccination seriously.”
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP), which received the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, is the largest humanitarian agency in the world, acting through assistance and food and nutrition security projects. The agency estimates that 272 million people are already – or about to enter – in a situation of acute food insecurity around the world, due to the effects of the Covid-19 crisis.
A record number of 235 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021, which means an increase of about 40% compared to 2020, according to a WFP survey.
According to the federal government’s Ministry of Citizenship, which operates the Bolsa Família and Emergency Aid payments, last year R $ 365 billion were made available for social programs, which helped to reduce extreme poverty by 80%.
The government announced on Wednesday (31) that the new emergency aid should benefit 45.6 million low-income families across the country with investments of R $ 44 billion and the beginning of payments in April, taking advantage of the work of registering beneficiaries. last year.
The ministry also says that it carries out continuous cross-checking of data and control and inspection actions to avoid undue payments. At the same time, the government claims to have increased the budget forecast for the payment of Bolsa Família this year, which would demonstrate a commitment to “guarantee and continuously expand assistance in social protection actions”.
“It is also worth mentioning that the ministry has also been working on the reformulation of the Bolsa-Família. The new proposal, in addition to expanding the number of families contemplated, provides, for example, readjustment in the amounts of benefits currently paid and more efficiency in the spending of public money ”, says the ministry in response to the CNN Brazil.
The ministry’s note also points out procedures for distributing food to localities that have decreed an emergency or public calamity and the program for the purchase of food from family farms as initiatives to combat hunger in the country.
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