Sophia White is a Gap year student with CAFOD. Based in the diocese of Southwark she has decided to raise our awareness about some issues the poorest community in the world are facing.
Lack of Oxygen in Brazil’s Hospitals
This post and it’s call is shaped by a staff and volunteer briefing in which informed us of the lack of oxygen in Brazil’s hospitals, with a new strain of the virus spreading rapidly. This can seem like something of a cruel twist of fate when we consider that 40 percent of Brazil is covered by the Amazon rainforest, “the lungs of our planet.”
Prior to the call, the news item that had been most shaping my consciousness about Brazil (except reports about Jair Bolsonaro’s policies and soundbites) was the Amazon rainforest fires and their lasting impacts. An area roughly the size of a football pitch is cleared in the Amazon every minute. We were told that these fires were caused by a mixture of climate change and the deliberate use of fire for agricultural reasons, which raises various questions about governance.
CAFOD’s Partners Working for Resilience and Hope
CAFOD’s partners in Brazil work in urban, agricultural and Amazon regions. While the geography is diverse, I was struck by the similarities in the projects, problems, and people – while we are all indeed one human family, my biggest take-away about the human condition this past year is that we are a far more resilient, creative and hopeful bunch than I had ever realized.
The urban projects are largely concentrated in the favelas (low-income, informal settlements). These areas are poorly planned and have little in terms of public facilities. They are also cramped, and the infrastructure makes it challenging to adhere to public health guidance. Domestic violence has also been on the rise. One of CAFOD’s partners has supported nearly 8,000 families during the pandemic, with the help of many young volunteers from the local area.
The Impact on São Paulo’s Favelas
One-third of the residents in one São Paulo favela have been left with no income. As a result, there has been a rise in street homelessness in the city (which has a total population of 16 million) from 24,000 before the pandemic to 1.2 million at the end of 2020. CAFOD’s partners have been lobbying the government to provide basic welfare for the poorest.
This all served to paint quite a bleak picture of the city; any idea of a rural idyll was also to be shattered, though differently.
Land Pastoral Commission Helps Landless Farmers
CAFOD’s partners work with many landless farmers, who are legally considered squatters and have very limited rights – and who are disincentive from investing in the land due to their lack tenure. CAFOD’s partners help them to access legal routes in order to get land titles, and to accompany them in getting to know their rights.
Partners also work to help farmers develop environmentally-friendly agriculture and improve their yields and quality of their produce, and have established numerous farmers markets in the area. When COVID hit, the governor announced a strict lockdown which meant that farmers couldn’t sell their produce, and that harvest was affected. This also proved to be a time of inspiration and work for the common good. When the Land Pastoral Commission saw that they had a lot of produce that they couldn’t sell and there were a lot of people going hungry, so the farmers donated their produce.
Finally, to the Amazon, where mining, deforestation and land grabbing are rapidly altering the life and culture of the rainforest (and planet).
Signs from activists read “illegal miners out, COVID out.”
Coronavirus Impacting the Lungs of Our Planet
Per capita, the indigenous community is most affected by the coronavirus in the country. CAFOD’s partners distribute basic food to indigenous communities, and educate them about coronavirus measures. They are also supporting farmers to plant fruit trees, and to stay on the land in order to restore the ecosystem. This is made more difficult with the arrival of illegal miners who, among other things, can infect rivers with mercury. In this year’s Lent campaign we have been reflecting on the importance of water in our lives, yet here we again see how greed is taking away this most basic right from communities. Speaking about the taking of indigenous land will send me down a rabbit hole that is better left to someone else.
Brazil is one of the world’s richest countries in natural resources, yet in the city, the countryside and the forest the people are really suffering. We were shown many glimmers of hope during the call, but it is a long way from the Carnival and Copacabana beach which shapes many of our imaginations about Brazil.