After more than a decade of consecutive decreases in the infant mortality rate in Brazil, 2016 saw an 11 percent increase in this statistic compared to the previous year.
The figure, compiled from data by Brazil's Ministry of Health/Data SUS, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) and other official sources, were tabulated by the Abinq Foundation.
“Confronting (infant mortality) was significant, and Brazil became a reference point for doing so. The rates were declining... and, in 2016, it tended to increase,” said Denise Cesario, executive-director of the Abrinq Foundation.
She said the increase in infant mortality is directly related to the Senate-imposed government led by Michel Temer, which has systematically cut funds to social programs addressing the well-being of children. They include but aren't limited to, the National Program of School Nutrition (PNAE), which guarantees the children of needy families access to healthy food during preschool, Blind Network, Family Grant and the almost extinct Food Acquisition Program (PAA).
“We recognize that the reduction in investment, and withdrawal, of specific programs, has played a direct role in increasing infant mortality. This indicates that the poorest families are impacted the most due to the lack of investments in social policies,” Cesario pointed out.
She pointed to Temer's decision to cut public spending over the next 20 years as an indicator that infant mortality will continue to rise. “It has a considerable impact. This question is very worrying. We know that during the crisis, the first cuts take place in social areas and those who suffer most are the most vulnerable population.
Tereza Campello, an economist and former Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger during former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's administration, was even more emphatic in her condemnation of Temer's policies, which she called “stupid.”
“It costs less for you to prevent malnutrition and diarrhea than to treat a hospitalized child in an intensive care unit bed. So, it's not an intelligent, rational fiscal option.”