Lack of sewage and sanitation services spread disease in Brazil

Latin America

This July 31, 2017, file photo, shows the Rio das Pedras neighborhood on the shores of the heavily polluted Jacarepagua lagoog, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

Basic necessitates can often be taken for granted, but sewage and sanitation services are essential for any big city. Brazil is lagging behind, and that’s leading to some deadly consequences.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral filed this report on this serious sanitation issue.

Franco da Rocha is a suburban town on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. About a third of the 15,000 people living there have no access to proper sewage and sanitation systems.

“If I think 10 years back things did improve around here. But the sewage collected in the houses is still dumped directly here on this stream,” Alexandre Lopes of the Parque Pretoria community explained. “Garbage collection is also very deficient. The truck doesn’t go to some streets here in our neighborhood.”

Despite its problems, Franco da Rocha still fares better than Brazil’s average. Government figures based on 2016 data show that nationally, a full 45-percent of the population lack access to adequate sewage.

Government researchers said that’s directly related to a new finding. Last year, nearly 35-percent of Brazilian cities were severely hit by diseases related to poor sanitation, including dengue fever, diarrhea, zika, parasites, cholera and leptospirosis.

Investment in sanitation infrastructure usually has to be very high to make an actual impact. Building water and sewage systems is not cheap or easy. However, experts warn that if the investment is not made, more resources are needed in the future to deal with the diseases that appear as consequences.

The local government in Franco da Rocha has launched outreach programs, to monitor conditions and educate residents. Even so, Acting Health Secretary Jose Weiller says heavy investment from state and federal authorities is essential for a definite solution to the problem.

“Research done in Brazil, in Europe and more recently in Africa shows that for every dollar invested in sanitation can avoid spending $16 down the road on health care,” Weiller  said. “It’s obvious: you avoid contamination.”

Addressing the sanitation deficiencies in a country the size of Brazil, with a population of more than 200 million people, is a huge challenge. Regardless, experts said it’s critical to protecting the health of this rapidly developing economy.