Category Archives: poverty

Celebrating 10 Years of Bolsa Família, the Widely Successful Brazilian Poverty Alleviation Plan


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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!

Changing the Poverty Narration, Starting with NTDs: An Opinion Piece


Photo by Mo Scarpelli

Photo by Mo Scarpelli

Think Africa Press wrote a pertinent article last week highlighting the perplexities around the commonly accepted, social notion that “poverty will always be with us”.  As a public health practitioner and global health “anti-poverty” advocate, I agree this notion needs to be challenged.  Thinking about poverty as an undifferentiated group of people without intrinsic strength to rise above circumstance is not an adequate response to fighting the war on poverty or a helpful logic to frame the debate around how to address poverty and the mire of complexities the term poverty evokes.  In order to address poverty more effectively in our society today, the commonly accepted social notion that “poverty will always be with us” needs to become a more proactive, community-enabling and mobilizing conviction-“we may not be able to end poverty indefinitely, but we can certainly end pieces of it”.

A “piece” of poverty we can see the end of in our life-times today involves neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).  These are a group of seventeen diseases that plague the poorest communities in our world today.  Over a billion people are infected with one or more NTDs and the majority of these people live on less than $2 per day.  Not only are NTDs found in what I like to call “poverty pockets” in our society, but these diseases keep people trapped in poverty by prohibiting productivity of those infected.  NTDs can result in child deaths, severe anemia affecting pregnant women and young children, nutritional deficiencies, cognitive development challenges and ultimately loss of productivity. These diseases have major implications for working families and children trying to attend school on a regular basis. NTDs are linked to poverty and scaling up treatment and control programs for these diseases will not only lift populations out of poverty, but will help achieve the Millennium Development Goals to help meet the needs of those in poverty (explained more in depth by Development Progress here).

Treating and controlling NTD is known as a “best-buy” in public health – offering low cost interventions and yielding high returns for populations. Yet NTDs still thrive in our world today for many complex and often interconnected reasons.  For example, some countries lack the political commitment to prioritize health and NTD control within their countries. In other countries, populations face infrastructure challenge and leadership is missing. With lack of infrastructure, lack of access to clean water and sanitation system allow NTDs to thrive. In order to address NTDs, we need strong political champions and integrated approaches to controlling and treating these diseases.

There is so much to learn about NTDs and why they are allowed to persist in are world today.  But one message is clear and also was re-iterated recently by the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki Moon: “Poverty reduction and the elimination of NTDs go hand-in-hand.”  And in the words of Bill Gates in his recent Annual Letter, “The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful. “ If the international community wants to address poverty, NTDs is a piece of this conversation and a piece of poverty we can work to end.

Follow @ThinkAfricaFeed @WeCanEndPoverty @TheRulesOrg and @GlobaLuv4Health for more on the conversation about poverty, health and NTDs.

New Article: How NTDs could reshape the Global Health Agenda


women and children wash their clothes in a river nearby the Pallgant school

Photo by Esther Havens


The United Nation’s (UN’s) Millennium development Goals (MDGs) are set to expire in just over a year. What comes next – the post-2015 development agenda – will be critical in determining the future of global health priorities and funding. In a recent PLOS NTDs article, James Smith and Emma Michelle Taylor discuss why NTDs should be included in the post-2015 development agenda and highlight the advances made in NTD funding and recognition in spite of their omission from the MDGs.

There is a clear case for including NTDs in the post-2015 development agenda. NTD control and elimination significantly improve the health of the most marginalized communities, enhance economic performance and contribute to broader development goals included in the MDGs. In fact, not addressing NTDs could undermine efforts to reach virtually all MDGs.

But the cross-cutting nature of NTDs may actually keep these diseases from taking center stage in the post-2015 agenda, the authors argue. In the article, they say the very nature of NTDs – the fact that these diseases are “relatively invisible cross-cutting drivers of poverty” – has limited efforts to focus on them.

Despite this difficulty, the global community is taking notice and is addressing NTDs in unprecedented ways. The authors note that the absence of NTDs from MDG 6: combat HIV/Aids malaria and other diseases, “served as a call to arms for a group of concerned stakeholders, who have since contributed to a series of landmark initiatives that have placed NTDs firmly on the international agenda.”

The two most recent initiatives, which include the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases and a milestone World Health Organization (WHO) resolution on NTDs, helped secure unprecedented funding from traditional and non-traditional sources.

“Already the fruits of the public-private partnership approach are being felt, with gains in NTD control providing hope that elimination may be a possibility for many of the diseases. The success has been such that the WHO Secretary General, Dr. Margaret Chan, recently referred to the story of the NTDs in the 21st century as one of rags to riches,” Smith and Taylor explain.

So what can we expect from a post-2015 agenda? Will NTDs be included and will this make a difference? The authors note that while NTDs are cross-cutting drivers of poverty, there has been a limited effort to realize synergies between NTDs and other areas like education, health poverty and gender. But looking forward, there’s reason to be hopeful.

As Smith and Taylor mention, “The recently-released report of the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda includes an ‘illustrative goal’ for health that will ‘ensure healthy lives’ and explicitly names NTDs alongside HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and non-communicable diseases.”

In closing, the authors state that by including NTDs in the post-2015 agenda, the international community could be signaling a new shift in international development – one that focuses on the “institutions we need to manage the complex social, economic, environmental, and health systems that interact to shape future development.”

To read the full article, click here. And to read more about the Global Network’s role in the post-2015 development agenda, click here.

NTDS Take the Stage at the Social Good Summit


(from right to left) Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network; David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb in London; and Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, present at the Social Good Summit in New York City

(from right to left) Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network; David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb in London; and Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, present at the Social Good Summit in New York City.


“We have a wonderful public-private partnership with the pharmaceutical industry who are donating all the drugs, and we have great technical experts that actually help to ensure that these drugs get to the people that require them. So now we need to create the movement to ensure that it’s seeded in the public consciousness, and that enables us to influence policy and get more money for the cause for essentially a voiceless community.” – Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, at the Social Good Summit

Yesterday, at the Social Good Summit (SGS) in New York City, the Global Network had a phenomenal opportunity to join innovative and inspiring leaders in technology, media and policy from all over the world to discuss how we can accelerate progress on development issues such as poverty, education, equal rights, girls and women, and climate change by 2030.

We were honored to be part of that fascinating conversation hosted by the 92 Street Y, Mashable, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, by speaking on a panel, “Is shock value a way to spur social good?” Our presenters, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network; David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb in London; and Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, shared how our END7 “Celebrity Shocker” video relied on raw emotion, celebrity engagement, social media – and of course shock value – to catapult awareness for NTDs and prompt thousands of people to take action.

Neeraj began by talking about the two ways in which people essentially react: emotionally and rationally. On the one hand, people react with their guts, knowing how they feel about something immediately. Conversely, sometimes people react slowly about something and are able to make calculated decisions in response. With this in mind, Neeraj explained, the Global Network “decided to fight the [NTD] cause on both fronts.”

Only minutes into the panel, we discovered very few people in the audience actually knew about NTDs and how they afflict over a billion people worldwide, most of whom live on less than $1.25 a day. In fact, just a few hands out of hundreds of people went up when Neeraj asked about their familiarity with them!

"How to Shock a Celebrity" plays in front of the audience

“How to Shock a Celebrity” plays in front of the audience

So, just as we introduced NTDs to hundreds of thousands of people earlier this year with our END7 “Celebrity Shocker” video, we grabbed people’s attention at SGS by playing the video for them. What we saw and heard was so moving – and quite telling: gasps, hands over people’s mouths, jaws dropping and sheer sadness on their faces.

David then provided insights about the creative process behind END7 and our PSA. He explained, “Our biggest challenge was that these aren’t very user friendly images to put in front of a public. And our challenge was really that no one knows what these diseases are.” The key for him, therefore, was to “create a little bit of suspense and engagement” that would build empathy and emotions “that connect us and drive us to do something.”

Though END7 has an ambitious goal – seeing the end of the seven most common NTDs in seven years (by 2020) – it’s actually possible. As David said, “the really shocking thing is that there’s a cure for such a small amount of money.” For just 50 cents, we can treat and protect one person per year with a packet of pills donated by the pharmaceutical industry. “The idea is that anyone, in their small way, can contribute to the campaign,” David noted, and that we can all help alleviate widespread suffering and poverty caused by these horrific diseases with just a simple, small donation.

As Peter described, a successful public awareness campaign for any organization isn’t just about the creative assets, it’s also very much about the strategy behind sharing them, building an audience and encouraging people to act on what they’ve seen.

“The type of emotion matters,” Peter said, noting that a goal of campaigns should be to spur emotions that “get people to sit forward in your chair to do something.” These include outrage, shock, happiness and inspiration. Peter and others at Upworthy felt compelled to share the video because it not only hit on these powerful points but also that “if [treatment is] just 50 cents…we can help a few hundred thousand more people see this and help make a difference.”

Wrapping up the discussion, Neeraj noted that tackling NTDs is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions out there today. And, because NTDs are linked to many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), if we address them, we can make improvements to many of the challenges other SGS presenters highlighted, such as water and sanitation, access to education, and maternal and child health.

“We see the END7 campaign as a vehicle to actually raise attention to these [neglected] communities, and once we mainstream that in our collective consciousness, like every movement, we’ll be able to tackle this issue.”

Thank you again to the Social Good Summit for inviting us to be part of this innovative and thought-provoking global discussion! We were inspired by so many presenters, including Malala, Magatte Wade, Barbara Bush, and so many others, and we look forward to seeing the resulting impact in the coming years!

Join us by learning more at and watching the panel below. Together, we can see the end.