Making Progress on the Millennium Development Goals in Brazil

Brazil 2014

By Purnima Ramakrishnan

August 04, 2014

Also published by The Huffington Post

This April we went to Brazil for a reporting trip which lasted almost a fortnight. It was a great opportunity to learn about the progress Brazil has made in achieving the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals. We visited Sao Paulo, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and many nearby cities and favelas.

Millennium Development Goal #1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

The success of MDG # 1 is also dependant on promoting the cultivation of the naturally growing cactus called palma for use as a food for human and livestock. I tasted palma curry, which is basically bits of cooked succulent spiced cacti in gravy, in the arid northeastern region of Cumaru. Served with rice, it tasted heavenly for my curried Indian tongue.

Cultivation of palmas.

A closer look at palmas, which need very little water to grow abundantly.

The dragonfruit or pitaya is a very juicy fruit, originally native to Mexico and South Americas but now growing abundantly in Asia and Africa. They are a variety of cacti and do not need over-watering, making them an excellent food for farmers. They have a creamy pulp and rich aroma, and they are high in calories and sugar.

I am a fan for life.

The conditional cash transfer scheme called Bolsa Familia helps in eliminating extreme poverty and so far has reached 22 million families living in extreme poverty and brought them out of it. Check it out in detail here.

This photo is from a presentation by Teresa Campello, the minister for hunger and poverty alleviation in Rio de Janeiro. 

Amidst all this food talk, how can I resist a picture of the lunch comprised of palak (spinach) rice and dal, coconut and cucumber curry, gulab jamun, and cashew fruit juice I had at an Indian restaurant? It was complete with curry leaves and garnished with coriander.

Sao Paulo has tasty Indian restaurants.

Millennium Development Goal #2: Achieve universal primary education

Bolsa Familia, a conditional cash transfer program, is available to families that send their children to the free primary schooling provided by the government.

Children outside a playground in a favela in Recife discuss football and their school teams.

Millennium Development Goal #3: Promote gender equality and empower women

One would think it is easy to achieve this MDG in a country where the president is a woman. It has been far from easy. But the recipients of Bolsa Familia are predominantly women, because the state has observed that women are more reliable in providing for their families.

The author meets Ms. Tereza Campello, the minister for hunger and poverty alleviation in Rio de Janeiro, after a presentation on Bolsa Familia.

Millennium Development Goal #4: Reduce child mortality

In 1980, Brazil started a massive twenty-year campaign for the oral polio vaccine. The last case of polio was reported in 1989, and the WHO certified Brazil as polio-free in 1994.

We visited the Institute of Technology in Immunobiology (Bio-Manguinhos), which is the unit of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) responsible for technology development and production of vaccines, reagents and biopharmaceuticals primarily geared to meet the demands of national public health. It even exports surplus vaccines to more than 70 countries.

The Immunobiological Technology Institute (Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz)

Dr. Akira Homma, president of strategy and policy, Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz, presents the progress of immunizations and the subsequent reduction in child mortality, Rio de Janeiro.

Millennium Development Goal #5: Improve maternal health

The community health workers volunteering for the NGO, Grupo de Trabalho Em Prevencao Posithivo (GTP), states that maternal health has improved in Brazil, and women are more open to using female condoms. In the large Catholic country, abortion is still illegal.

A health-worker explaining how to use the female condom in the Coelhos favela in Recife.

The female condoms are distributed free by GTP in the Coelhos favela.

Millennium Development Goal #6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

GTP employs members of the LGBT, HIV/AIDS, and sex-work coomunities. Some workers educate favela residents, and while others serve in the GTP restaurant. Yet despite these successes in combatting HIV stigma, significant challanges remain. There is still much work to be done to eradicate malaria and other diseases.

Children playing adjacent to the accumulation of garbage and sewage water in the favelas in Recife.

Garbage and water, a breeding ground for mosquitoes, accumulates in front of houses in the favelas.

Mural on the walls of a home in the favela. 

Millennium Development Goal #7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Despite many environmental problems in Brazil, some progress is being made toward sustainability. Details here on World Moms Blog.

Uncovered water wells leading to the modern covered water cisterns.

Volunteers overseeing the construction of a 16000-litre water cistern, which traps rainwater in the semi-arid region of Cumaru.

A completed water cistern with a capacity of 16,000 liters. 

Saplings cultivated in the semi-arid region, thanks to better water storage with cisterns.

Millennium Development Goal #8: Develop a global partnership for development

Brazil has made inroads in reducing poverty with the conditional cash transfer scheme Bolsa Familia. It is partnered globally with African nations on South-South cooperation and with other BRICS nations. Brazil has so much to offer to the world in terms of partnerships for sustained development and social equality.

Sergio Fausto, executive director of the Instituto Fernando Hanrique Cardoso and key advisor to former President Cardoso, and other leaders from the industry and political arena discuss Brazil's role in South-South cooperation, democracy in Brazil, socioeconomic schemes for the progress and development of the country and industrial growth.

Purnima Ramakrishnan reported from Brazil on a fellowship with the International Reporting Project (IRP).