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Brazil Fights Hunger & Illiteracy

Ihssane Loudiyi's picture

(Thanks and credits for sharing this information go to the Brazilian Secretariat of Social Communication - SECOM)


Social development and progress continue to stay strong in Brazil:


With one of the world’s largest populations, Brazil’s government has invested heavily in programs to eliminate poverty and hunger and improve access to services and opportunities in low-income communities. These efforts and their success to date earned Brazil’s President Lula UNESCO’s prestigious Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in July, and Brazil’s Minister of Social Development the World Future Council’s Future Policy Award just a few weeks ago.


Detailed information can be found below.


Brazil tops global ranking in fight against hunger

Brazil ranks first among developing countries in a new report assessing nation-by-nation progress in the fight against hunger. The report (”Who’s Really Fighting Hunger?,” 10/16/09) is based on research conducted in 51 countries by ActionAid, a South Africa-based non-governmental organization that works to combat poverty around the world.

The report assessed 29 developing countries on the basis of legal commitment to the right to food, investment in agriculture and social protection, and performance on hunger and child nutrition. Brazil came in first, ahead of China, Ghana and Vietnam. Luxembourg topped the ranking of 22 developed countries, which were evaluated based on commitment to sustainable agriculture and tackling climate change.

ActionAid attributed Brazil’s success in combating hunger to initiatives of the federal government and the Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS). The report praises Brazil’s Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program, which within six years decreased child malnutrition by 73 percent and child deaths by 45 percent through food banks, community kitchens, school meals from local ingredients, and support for small farmers. ActionAid also recognizes Brazil’s welfare program, “Bolsa Familia,” as helping to significantly improve the nutrition, health, and education of children from low-income families.

ActionAid has had an office in Brazil since 1998. “It's the role of the state and not the level of wealth that determines progress on hunger”, said Anne Jellema, ActionAid's director.

The report states that Brazil’s success demonstrates “what can be achieved when the state has both resources and political will to tackle hunger.”

Bolsa Familia (Family Grant) – Bolsa Familia is the largest income transfer program in the world, providing cash assistance and benefits to 12 million poor families throughout Brazil. Bolsa Familia was launched in October 2003 and benefits families with a monthly income of 140 Brazilian reais (US $80) or less. To receive benefits, families must meet several core requirements, including children’s school attendance and beneficiaries’ use of health cards and other social services.

An additional 50,000 families enrolled in the Bolsa Familia program in August 2009. The basic grant is 68 reais (US$ 39) per month, plus 22 reais (US$ 12.50) per child under 16 years of age and 33 reais (US$ 19) per adolescent.

Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) Program – Fome Zero was established in 2003 to offer aid to the low-income population. It has reached over 44 million Brazilians through cash transfers, food banks, community kitchens and markets, and school meals. Through its Social Mobilization Agenda, Zero Hunger coordinates the efforts of the Education Network for Citizenship, sister schools, and the Committee of Entities Against Hunger and For Life (Coep).


Brazil’s “Bolsa Familia” income transfer program raises literacy rates: 
Half a million Brazilian children and adults that received benefits through “Bolsa Familia,” the federal government’s cash transfer program, or registered in the country´s social programs database became literate in 2006 and 2007. During the same period, the number of people included in the registry attending public literacy programs increased 12 percentage points, demonstrating Bolsa Familia’s positive impact on education and literacy levels in Brazil.

According to an analysis by the Ministry of Social Development, 88% of beneficiaries who learned to read and write from 2006-2007 live in the Northeast region of Brazil, the area that is poorest and has the highest rates of illiteracy.

Coordination between the Ministry of Education and The Ministry of Social Development, which administers the Bolsa Familia grant, has enabled beneficiaries to return to the classroom or enter for the first time, a critical step towards increasing the social and economic standing of low-income citizens.

Of the 536,289 students who took literacy courses from 2006-2007, 379,465 were enrolled in the Federal Government’s cash transfer program.

Completing its sixth year this week, the Bolsa Família is one of the largest cash transfer programs in the world and serves 12.4 million Brazilian families. It provides stipends between 22-200 Brazilian reais (US $12-$114) for households with monthly per capita income of up to 140 reais (US $80), allied to preferential access to training, employment and income generation programs. The program has a 12 billion reais (US $6.8 billion) budget for 2009 and, since its inception, has spent 52.7 billion reais (US $30 billion). According to Fundação Getúlio Vargas, an independent think tank, 19.4 million Brazilians have been lifted out of poverty since 2003.

Literacy courses are one of several complementary initiatives tied to the Bolsa Familia program, designed to help beneficiaries develop job skills and improve access to opportunities. In addition to cash benefits, Bolsa Familia offers professional training in partnership with the Ministry of Labor and Employment to enable beneficiaries to enter the Tourism and Construction markets. In addition, Bolsa Familia partners up with a regional micro-credit program that extended approximately 215 million reais (US$ 125 million) in credit to 225,000 beneficiaries living in Brazil’s Northeast region – the poorest in the country - between January and May 2009.

Commitment to education and health – Integration between the cash transfer program and access to education is at the root of Bolsa Família. In order to receive transfers, beneficiaries must meet minimum requirements for childrens’ school attendance, and regular visits to health centers and immunizations. These requirements help meet the program’s goal of increasing access to basic education and healthcare in low-income communities.

Program adds new beneficiaries – Last Monday, October 19, 500,000 additional families were added to the Bolsa Familia program. The inclusion of new beneficiaries is part of the program’s planned expansion, which is entering its final phase for 2009. This program expansion began in May with the addition of 300,000 new households to the program, followed by another 500,000 households in August. After adding a total of 1.3 million new households in 2009, Bolsa Familia now serves 12.4 million families. The Ministry of Social Development expects the program to reach 12.9 million families in 2010.