One of the world’s biggest economies and a rising global power, Brazil has struggled for decades with a growing gap between rich and poor—a gap that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officially in recession and struggling to rebound from the terrible health toll of 2020, Brazil faces an uncertain future—and the nation’s poor remain marginalised.
Home to more than 210 million people, Brazil has the largest population in Latin America, with the majority of citizens living in industrial cities, like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Rapid growth in the urban population has created serious social, environmental and political problems, with millions of people living in slums and on the streets.
Children living on the streets are subject to drug and solvent abuse, as well as prostitution and violence. As a result of extreme poverty, child prostitution is on the rise, particularly in areas frequented by foreign tourists such as Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Fortaleza.
Many indigenous groups, particularly in the Amazon region, lack access to healthcare and other services. They have been hit hard by the twin threats of the COVID-19 pandemic and rampant deforestation, which is often driven by cattle ranchers, illegal mining and drug cartels encroaching on their traditional lands.
In rural regions of the country, literacy, infant survival rates and access to water facilities are well below the national average. Only 51 per cent of people in rural areas have access to improved sanitation facilities, compared to 88 per cent in the cities.