Christmas in a country that is going hungry

For a large part of Brazilian children, there will be no Christmas dinner this year. In fact, many might not eat at all. During the pandemic, just 26 percent of children aged 2 to 9 in Brazil treated by public health clinics have been able to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Last year, during the height of the coronavirus crisis, this rate was as low as 21 percent.

The data was compiled by the Health Ministry’s food and nutrition surveillance system, based on forms filled in at public primary care facilities.

The devastating trend is the result of a number of economic and social factors, not least Brazil’s skyrocketing food prices and large unemployment rates. In 2020, the government’s coronavirus emergency salary program temporarily brought poverty rates down to historic lows, but levels shot up again once payments were halved, and later suspended.

In 2015, the same measurement showed that 76 percent of children ate three square meals a day, every day. The ensuing economic crisis chopped the rate down to 42 percent just one year later, and it dropped to 28 percent in 2019 — before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the meals that are being served to children could be causing health problems of their own. Data shows that 85 percent of 2 to 9-year-olds eat so-called “ultra-processed” foods. Just over three-quarters eat fruit, and around 60 percent eat vegetables.

This year alone, over 3,000 children died of malnutrition in Brazil. The statistic is harrowing, upsetting, and unforgivable.