The end of aid for COVID-19 in Brazil leaves thousands of families on the edge of poverty

Brazil’s economy has been greatly affected by the pandemic, which prompted the government of President Jair Bolsonaro to launch a surprisingly generous emergency social assistance plan for low-income families.

But with the end of aid on December 31, millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty

Michele de Oliveira is a salesperson, and has been relying almost exclusively on charitable donations from other countries since the Government of Brazil cut off the aid program emergency launched during the pandemic.

Until the end of the year, the government aid of 100 euros a month allowed Michele to feed a family of 8 during a crisis in which most of its members lost their jobs. Now Michele says that she doesn’t know what she fears the most: the virus, or hunger: “I thought about going to sell tequila and beer at the party last night. But then my mother said ‘Are you crazy ?! go! There’s a disease out there! So I’m between a rock and a hard place. “

Brazil’s government says the emergency aid program was unsustainableas it had made a huge hole in the country’s already battered public finances. And it put an end to the lifeline that was supposed to 30 million families. Brazil’s economy contracted 4.5% last year.

And while macro indicators like that may suggest that COVID19 has had a less dramatic impact than originally anticipated. Economists warn that millions of people in the country are at risk of falling into extreme poverty.

“We tend to look at GDP and say, oh, it grew 2%, that’s good. But nobody eats GDP … In 2021, there will be people who will enter all the indicators of poverty and will risk entering a stage where they will go hungry and that lack of the most basic things that are needed to survive. And I’m not talking about dignity, I’m only talking about survival “, explains economist Eduardo Moreira.

And to try to avoid it, NGOs have started to intervene to fill the void left by the government. In the CUFA organization, they have focused on those they consider to be the most affected by the crisis, such as the poor poor and single mothers

“Something very symbolic is that the first person to die from COVID-19 in Rio de Janeiro was a cleaning lady. So we quickly understood which sector would be most affected if there was no specific intervention “, says Mario Love, CUFA coordinator.

Viviane is a cleaning lady. Like most of the group that has come to collect food donations today, he has lost his job to COVID-19. With no income, he is totally dependent on aid to feed his family.