More than 15% of people suffer from hunger in Brazil in 2022

More than 33 million people in Brazil suffer from hunger in 2022, a figure that almost doubled in two years.

© Siegfried Poepperl

There are 33.1 million people in Brazil who suffer from hunger in 2022, accounting for 15.5% of the 214 million people in the country, the survey published by the Brazilian Research Network on Food and Nutrition Sovereignty and Security (PENSSAN) on June 8 shows.

There have been 14 million more Brazilians in a situation of hunger in two years, almost doubling the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity in 2020 (9%), according to the report produced by the group of researchers and supported by organizations like Oxfam Brazil. Moreover, more than 1 in 10 Brazilians (12%) lack regular and permanent access to water.

More than half of households in Brazil (59%), or 125.2 million Brazilians, live with the perception of some extent – mild, moderate or severe – of food insecurity. That’s a 7.2% increase to 2020’s and 60% to 2018’s surveys.

The survey was based on face-to-face interviews conducted in 12,745 households across the country between November 2021 and April 2022.

The network adapted the Brazilian Food Insecurity Scale (EBIA), a psychometric scale used by the Brazilian Institute of Statistics and made out of 14 questions that assess the perception of food security and experience of hunger in a population. With this survey, positive answers to eight questions, for instance to know if people skipped meals because of a lack of money to buy food or if they were worried they would run out of food, gave a score from 0 to 8. Answering from 1 to 3 questions positively resulted in mild food insecurity and giving 6 to 8 positive answers was considered as severe food insecurity, or hunger.

Results vary significantly from estimates given by the World Food Program where less than 2.5% of the population in Brazil suffered from undernourishment in 2017-19. But the minimum amount of food essential for sound health and growth is considered an indirect approach to assessing food security and is different from an index measuring the perception of hunger.

Overall results of the survey show that 15.5% of households experience severe food insecurity, and 15.2% of households are moderate food insecurity. A previous survey carried out in 2020 showed that hunger in Brazil had returned to levels equivalent to those in 2004. It is now equivalent to the 1990s.

The North (Norte) and Northeast (Nordeste) regions of Brazil experience significantly more some extent of food insecurity, 71.6% and 68% of households respectively, than the national average (58.7%). Hunger was an issue for 25.7% of households in the North, which is mostly covered by the Amazon rainforest, and 21% of households in the Northeast, the poorest region of Brazil, while it touched on only 9.9% of households in the much richer South (Sul) region.

Black women and rural areas more affected by hunger

Similarly, rural areas are more affected by hunger. And it also includes people producing food as 21.8% of family farms and small producers suffer from severe food insecurity, which were particularly affected by the economic crisis and dismantling of public policies aimed at small food producers.

Yet, the agriculture industry has reached records of revenue lately. But Brazilian products are a lot focused on exports and not necessarily dedicated to human consumption like soy and corn crops which benefited from higher prices on global markets, while the domestic consumer market is filled with products from smaller producers which have become too expensive for the population because of the inflation.

Urban areas are however not immune to impoverishment either since a city like São Paulo in the South East region saw its homeless population grow by more than 30% in 2 years.

Hunger also affects more women, black and racially mixed people.

When the reference person of the household is self-declared as white, 46.8% of them suffer from some sort of hunger, while 65% of households headed by a black or racially-mixed person live with some level of food restriction.

Hunger, severe food insecurity, takes place in 19.3% of households with a woman as the reference person, compared to 11.9% with a man as the reference person. The network partially explains this difference through gender pay gaps.

For PENSSAN, the reasons for the worsening of food security in Brazil lie in the economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduction of public policies that promoted the reduction of social inequalities in the population. “The pandemic arises in this context of growing poverty and misery, and brings even more helplessness and suffering,” said Ana Maria Segall, epidemiologist and researcher at the PENSSAN Network.

Brazil is experiencing high inflation rates with salaries growing slower than prices while, as in many Latin American countries, household incomes were hit hard during the pandemic.

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