Even in Brazil’s richest cities, millions live in poverty

World Today

Poverty is a serious problem in Brazil – and it’s in plain sight in the biggest cities. According to the latest figures, tens-of-millions are living below the poverty line. CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports from Sao Paulo.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest and richest city, has a population of 12 million and generates more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP.

Despite the wealth, millions there still live below minimum standards – according to a recent official survey.

For those living in the Sao Paulo Garden neighborhood, the infrastructure is poor, and homes are precarious. Last year, one family managed to turn its wooden shack into a brick house, but it was not enough to keep summer rain from getting into Romero Sebastian da Silva’s home.

“When the water comes in, it brings garbage, stones, even a snake I found here! It’s a desperate situation,” da Silva said.

Suzete Vieira is fortunate to have walls and a roof over her head, even if the house remains poorly-equipped and only half-finished.

“My family wants to move from here, but where can we go,” she asked. “This is the only place we have to live, and we need to stay here.”

Geraldo de Sa of the Jardim Sao Paulo Community Association explained that, “Working all day and then returning home and not having decent housing has severe effects on people’s lives. There are health issues, problems for family life, and people don’t get proper rest to go back to work the next day.”

About one quarter of Sao Paulo’s population is living in poverty, according to the country’s statistics bureau.

That’s significantly better than other parts of Brazil. Numbers show that almost 40 percent of the urban population is subject to low living standards. Roughly the same amount (37.9%) are considered to be in an ‘average’ situation, and fewer than 24 percent (23.9%) were considered to be in good or very good condition.

Almost 85 percent of Brazil’s population live in cities. These urban areas grew exponentially during the 20th century, keeping pace with the rise of industrialism in Brazil. The problem is that most of this growth took place with little urban planning.

“First, people come and they build their homes that are improved over time, over 30 years, and then afterwards, the focus is on infrastructure,” said Raquel Rolnik, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing.

“So, we’re talking about post urbanization, urbanization that comes decades after people are there.”

The problems facing Brazilians cities have grown over the years, so there’s no expectation of a quick solution – no matter how urgent the issue.