Infant mortality in Brazil is increasing for the first time since 1990
Between 2015 and 2016 infant mortality levels in the country rose by 5%. Health officials have suggested that the increase was caused by the Zika virus which effected large parts of South America and a reduction in health services caused by an economic crisis.
Fatima Marinho, Director of the Non-communicable Diseases Department and Information and Analysist at the Health Ministry, commented:
“We are going backwards, not forwards. We cannot go on with the situation. Or we lose everything we have gained in 15 years.”
Fatima Marinho also expected there to be a larger increase in the 2017 figures.
Denise Cesario, Executive Manager of the Abrinq Foundation, a non-profitable group in Sao Paulo, said:
“The rate is very significant. It is very worrying if we consider that this economic crisis will still impact on social conditions for years to come.”
Infant mortality is considered as one of the key indicators to measure a country’s development. A 2010 study published by the American Journal of Public Health lauded Brazil’s improvement in fulfilling the UN Millennium Development Goals. In the study, Brazil was described as a country with “rapid strides in improving maternal, newborn, and child health.”
However, the 2016 official figures revealed by the Folha de S Paulo newspaper indicated that a 4.8% increase in Brazil’s infant mortality rate in 2016. It is the first time an increase has been reported since the establishment of the current tracking system in 1990.
Although Sao Paulo is a relatively prosperous state in Brazil, its infant mortality rate increased by 2.7%. The national death rate for children age under five observed an approximately 4% increase.
The country has previously been applauded for its effort in integrating economic growth with poverty alleviation through landmark government programmes such as the Bolsa Familia.
Bolsa Familia is a family allowance and cash-transfer scheme for families to ensure their education and vaccinations for children.
In 2014 Brazil experienced an economic recession in 2014 and financial strain resulted in the reduction of budget for Bolsa Familia.
The Rede Cegonha (the Stork Network) also received less funding. The organisation is a government health programme for women which offers birth support, postnatal heath, and health planning.
The report by Folha de S Paulo also found an increase in deaths from preventable diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia; the number of under 5’s dying from diarrhea rose by 12%.
Fatima Marinho commented:
“How can children in Brazil in the 2000s die of diarrhea? This number is shocking.”
According to Jurandi Frutuoso, Executive Secretary of the National Council of Health Secretaries and a former Health Secretary of North-Eastern Ceará State, Brazil’s government spent less than 50% on improving people’s health. In fact, the majority of fund came from private health plans and citizen’s personal contribution.
The spending cannot meet the needs of growing population and medical inflation.
“The system lives with very serious under-financing.”
Ms. Cesario said children should be the top priority for the country's next president. She commented:
“We need the next president to be committed to childhood, to understand the situation of the most vulnerable families, so we can prioritise children.”
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Image credit: UNDP