Friday, January 22, 2021

Brasil: Either starve to death or die of COVID

 In Brasil, coronavirus is spreading and the death toll is mounting — but what most worries the vulnerable communities is how to feed people now that the government has pulled their main emergency aid. For most of last year, they had received a decent government stipend to survive the pandemic, but that all ended with 2020, unleashing a frenzy of favela requests for food. It was April when Congress first passed a bill that established the monthly $600 real ($112) stipend — a little over half the country’s minimum wage — pledging to tide people over for three months during the pandemic. By July, almost half of the 210 million people who call Brazil home lived with someone who was receiving the aid, government data shows.

Ivone Rocha is cofounder of Semeando Amor (Sowing Love), a non-profit that distributes basic staples to some of the very poorest people in Rio das Pedras, one of Rio de Janeiro’s many favelas.

“People here have no jobs,” Rocha told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “Now the aid has ended. My God, what will happen?”

Even before COVID-19, some 13 million Brazilians were living in extreme poverty and a full quarter of the population was classified as below the World Bank’s poverty line, according to government data. The end of the aid programme will disproportionately hit the poor north and northeast of the country, according to a study by Tendencias Consultoria, a consultancy focused on the economy. Those in favelas in Indigenous communities and in “quilombos” — settlements set up by runaway slaves where Black Brazilians live by old traditions — may suffer still more, campaigners said.

Milene Maia, an advisor for Instituto Socioambiental, a non-profit that helps Indigenous and quilombola communities, explained, “What they told us is that they either starve to death or die of COVID,” she said.

Brazil’s most vulnerable communities face COVID food crisis | Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

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