Rio de Janeiro (AP) – In the midst of the out of control corona pandemic in Brazil, hunger has returned in full force.
116.8 million Brazilians do not have full and permanent access to food, of which 19 million are hungry, according to a study by the Brazilian Food Security Research Network (PENSSAN speech) with data from December. This affects more than 55 percent of households, an increase of 54 percent compared to 2018. In the corona pandemic, the country passed 400,000 deaths on Thursday.
“The increase reflects the economic crisis in the middle class,” PENSSAN speech nutritionist Rosana Salles told the German news agency. Those who lost their jobs or were now short of working hours due to the corona pandemic often have to consider whether they still need to buy meat or just two instead of three meals a day – like a friend of Salles’, an artist.
The figures confirm the impression of the general manager of the NGO Ação da Cidadania, Daniel de Souza, from Rio de Janeiro, where long queues arise for food distribution points. “It is striking that people who have donated before are now asking for a food donation.” Local initiatives collect and distribute bags of food bought with donations from the Ação da Cidadania camp.
Brazil, especially the Northeast, has been ravaged by hunger time and again. However, in 2014, the United Nations took Latin America’s largest and most populous country off the starvation map for the first time. Now the return is imminent.
Former head of state Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) made the fight against hunger one of his priorities. The son of a poor family from the Northeast wanted three meals a day for every Brazilian. High commodity prices and newly discovered oil reserves helped him fund social programs such as “Fome Zero” (zero hunger). The economy grew, poverty decreased. However, there is also criticism that the symptom is addressed, but not the cause. President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been in office since 2019, has suspended the National Food Security Council in one of its first official acts.
In the Ação da Cidadania, hunger has gradually increased again since 2017. The economic crisis and cuts in social programs left many people behind and went hungry. But the corona pandemic has only amplified development. According to estimates, the economy plummeted, gross domestic product contracted 4.3 percent in 2020 and some jobs fell. But the director of the UN World Food Program in Brasília, Daniel Balaban, says, “The end of the pandemic will not solve the problem until the roots are tackled, new jobs are created and people are educated.”