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Published on 11/19/2015
One in Five Brazilian Municipalities Is in a State of Emergency or Public Calamity
01/26/2016 - 08h39
FROM SÃO PAULO
In Caruaru, Pernambuco, a municipality of 347,000 inhabitants, residents have water for only a third of each month, and the land has dried up. 3800km away in Agudo, Rio Grande do Sul, there are still people missing after heavy rains in December.
Both cities asked for help from the Federal Government, claiming they would not be able to improve their predicaments alone. But they are not exceptional cases: in Brazil, one in five municipalities is in a state of emergency or public calamity (the latter being more serious) due to natural disasters recognized by the government.
On top of this, there are at least nine whole states in the same situation, due to infestation by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and the diseases which it transmits.
The data comes from a Folha survey of the state civil defenses and the Ministry of National Integration.
While the number of cities in a state of emergency or calamity is similar to that a year ago, the current situation has been exacerbated by the recent advance of dengue fever, the zika virus and chikungunya.
This means that many regions that are already fragile due to natural disasters also have to deal with a serious public health issue.
Among the affected municipalities, 792 (77%) are suffering from lack of rain - prolonged dry weather or drought - in the northeast region and in Minas Gerais.
At the other end of Brazil, the problem is the opposite: excessive rain and related problems have left 236 cities (mostly in the south) in a state of emergency or calamity, with torrents, flooding, landslides and storms.
The government considers a municipality to be in a state of emergency when, among other things, at least two of the following conditions are present: up to nine affected schools, public hospitals or infrastructure projects, up to nine deaths, or when between 5% and 10% of the supply is compromised in areas of more than 10,000 people.
The state of calamity occurs when the conditions for a state of emergency have been exceeded. Both classifications last for 180 days.
Depending on the situation, the Federal Government provides extra funds for municipalities and benefits for residents such as the Government Severance Indemnity Fund (FGTS). It also allows those on its social welfare program Bolsa Família to bring forward their benefits.
In addition, the municipalities may be exempted from having to bid for products and services.
The number of cities in a state of emergency or calamity has been high for the last five years, since the beginning of one of the worst droughts in the northeast.
Translated by TOM GATEHOUSE
|Paulo Whitaker - 6.mar.2015/Reuters|
|A national health official walks past residents as he carries out fumigation to help control the spread of Chikungunya and dengue fever|