Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program contributed to a dramatic drop in poverty and inequality within the country, said Tereza Campello, Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger at a January 29th event at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
The event, titled “A Conversation with Tereza Campello, Brazil’s Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger,” was co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute and the World Bank’s Latin America and the Caribbean Region and shed light on some of the progress made in poverty alleviation in the first 10 years of the Bolsa Família program.
Minister Campello began her discussion by saying that poverty and inequality in Brazil has dropped dramatically thanks to three main public policies: a raise in the minimum wage, the expansion of the formal job sector, and the Bolsa Família program. The program was launched in 2003 during former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term. It is the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world, and is responsible for lifting 22 million people out of poverty. The three main goals of the program are to alleviate poverty and hunger; increase education attendance and reduce school drop-out rates; and improve access to health services for children, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding.
Since the beginning of the program, Bolsa Família has assisted over 50 million people — over a quarter of Brazil’s population. In return for direct cash transfers, beneficiaries must ensure their children attend school and receive their vaccinations, and pregnant women must receive prenatal and postpartum care.
Minister Campello highlighted the following achievements from the Bolsa Família program in the focus area of health:
- 19.4% reduction in infant mortality rate,
- 52% decrease of chronic infant malnutrition in children up to 6 years of age,
- 58% reduction in death due to malnutrition,
- Drop from 16.8% to 14.5% in the rate of stunting in children up to 5 years of age,
- 50% increase in prenatal care,
- 46% reduction in deaths from diarrhea, and
- 99.1% vaccination rate in children.
Its impact has been greatest in the northeast and Amazon regions of the country, where poverty is more prevalent. Additionally, out of the total current beneficiaries of the program, 73% of them are afro-Brazilian women.
The success of Bolsa Família is inspiring many countries around the world. The Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger has received delegations from 63 countries interested in learning more about how the program works. Deborah Wetzel, Country Director for Brazil for the World Bank, said the World Bank is working with the Brazilian government on ways to share the lessons learned with other countries.
Although Bolsa Família has been widely successful, challenges do remain. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world with a population of more than 200 million people living in more than 5 thousand municipalities. To address this issue, the Brasil Sem Miséria plan (Brazil Without Poverty plan) was launched during President Dilma Rousseff’s term in 2011 in order to expand the reach of the Bolsa Família program. Through this complementary plan, the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger is currently reaching out to an additional 9 million people who are not part of the Bolsa Família program but are in dire need of support.
Minister Campello closed the conversation by saying that the “end of poverty” is only the beginning. We join the Brazilian government in celebrating the first 10 years of Bolsa Família and we look forward to sharing many more success stories!