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Marcela Leiros – from Cenarium

MANAUS – With the increase in the price of products considered basic survival items, such as meat and cooking gas, people from Amazonas are forced to live a different reality. Today, low-income and socially vulnerable families cannot consume meat and must cook whatever food they can on a wood stove. Data from the federal government’s Unified Registry, the CadÚnico, which points to a month-on-month increase of people in poverty since November 2020, indicate that at least two million Brazilian families had their income reduced and fell into extreme poverty between January 2019 and June this year.

A family in extreme poverty is one with a per capita income of up to R$89 per month. They are, as a rule, people who live on the streets or in shacks and face recurring food insecurity. This income is at odds with the average price of cooking gas, which, in the North, has already reached R$ 100 for a 13-kilo cylinder, for example, and with the price of meat such as tenderloin, which also costs, on average, R$ 39 per kilo. The families live only with the Bolsa Família and, many times, even without it.

The CENARIUM went through peripheral neighborhoods of Manaus and found the housewife Débora Santana, 42, who shares a small wooden shack of three rooms with her husband and four children in Beco Inocêncio de Araújo, Educandos neighborhood, south of Manaus. Currently, the family’s income reaches R$1,000 (US$1,000), adding the amounts of the Family Grant received by each one of Débora’s children (R$212) and the change received by her husband from the autonomous services he performs.

“I think it’s been more than a year,” says the housewife about not eating meat. “We never eat meat anymore, because we eat fish, chicken, but we never eat meat anymore.

Débora Santana, 42, shows the refrigerator with water, chicken pieces, and fish (Ricardo Oliveira/CENARIUM)

In the two refrigerators that the family owns, but which hardly function, all you can find is water and a few pieces of chicken, mostly offal. At the stove, the dish of the day for lunch was stewed chicken feet. Fruits and vegetables in abundance are not part of the family’s daily diet. “Yesterday we made beans, noodles and sausage. Sometimes they also eat sausage with noodles, when there is no fish, no chicken”, Débora explained.

No food, no gas

In the same place, housewife Francisca das Dores, 59, didn’t know what meal she, her husband and five grandchildren would have this Monday 27th. With the fridge empty and no food at home, there would be no need to use the wood stove, usually used to cook food, when there is one. “Just water”, said the housewife, showing the almost empty refrigerator.

Francisca das Dores, 59, shows the empty refrigerator next to her granddaughters (Ricardo Oliveira/CENARIUM)

To cook the food, the family usually lends a structure set up specifically for this purpose. A car wheel cap is used as a barbecue grill and wood logs provide the fire. The granddaughters, 13 years old, 10 years old, and 7 years old twins, who are motherless, share this reality with their grandmother.

One of Francisca das Dores’ granddaughters shows where they usually cook their food with firewood. (Ricardo Oliveira/ CENARIUM)

Poverty intensified

According to UOL News, in December 2018, during the Michel Temer (MDB) government, there were 12.7 million in extreme poverty. Two and a half years later, and with Jair Bolsonaro in the presidency, that number reached 14.7 million in June 2021.

The June figure is the highest number of families in extreme poverty since the Ministry of Citizenship began making records available – as of August 2012 – and represents 41.1 million people. There are still 2.8 million people in poverty, or with per capita incomes of R$90 to R$178 per month.