inequality is the top priority
“If we had to use only one word to describe the causes
of vulnerability in Brazil, the word would be inequality,”
says Fernando Casanova, the coordinator of the International
Federation’s South America regional delegation in Buenos
Aires, Argentina. “There is inequality in the distribution
of wealth and resources, and inequality generates poverty.”
In Brazil, poverty results in a lack of access to fundamental
resources such as health care, safe water and education.
“Understanding that poverty is a general issue, the
Brazilian Red Cross identified its work priorities as being
health, disasters, community programmes, youth and volunteers.
All these programmes will be carried out with the most vulnerable
people in mind,” says Gabriel Santangelo of the ICRC
in Buenos Aires.
The Brazilian Red Cross’s strategic plan focuses on
the one-third of the population living on a monthly income
of less than US$ 33. The plan concludes that living on that
income means having poor living and health conditions, deficient
access to education, and insufficient and inadequate food.
In the short term, the Brazilian Red Cross plans to become
more effective by integrating its activities to focus on the
most vulnerable people. The goal is to fi nd new ways to assist
the huge numbers of Brazil’s poor by 2008. Among the
activities are a national health programme, community-based
programmes, disaster preparedness and response programmes,
and volunteer training.
Unemployment and violence are other issues at the heart of
Brazilian Red Cross programmes. Data from Rio de Janeiro reveals
that unemployment in the state is 9 per cent. The jobless
rate is 19 per cent in the city’s favelas or slums.
The deadline of 2008 for reshaping the National Society is
no coincidence. The date marks 100 years since it was founded.
Its first president, Oswaldo Cruz, was responsible for sanitation
campaigns in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the 20th century.
Since then, the National Society has acted to serve humanity
in ordinary life and at critical moments such as during floods
However, between 1992 and 2001, administrative problems at
headquarters in Rio de Janeiro generated a debt of US$ 2.3
million, which nearly stopped the work of their more than
130 employees; today, headquarters consists of 18 paid staff.
But even during the difficult years, when the National Society
could not offer leadership and support, 16 states branches
and 36 local branches continued working independently.
“Every branch was working on the local issues, specific
to each region,” says Brazilian Red Cross president,
Luiz Fernando Hernández.