Brazil's Infant Mortality Rate Rose for the First Time in Over 25 Years
Health experts say the Zika virus outbreak and the economic crisis are to blame.
For the first time in over two decades, the infant mortality rate in Brazil is rising. The Ministry of Health attributed the rise to both the outbreak of the Zika virus, which began in April of 2015, and cuts to health funding due to the country’s ongoing economic crisis.
Between 2015 and 2016, Brazil’s infant mortality rate rose by approximately 0.5% and while some media outlets reported that the increase was insignificant, health advocates say otherwise.
“The rate is very significant,” Denise Cesario, the executive manager of the Abrinq Foundation, a non-profit group in São Paulo that focuses on children’s and teen’s rights, told the Guardian. “It is very worrying if we consider that this economic crisis will still impact on social conditions for years to come.”
In the last 28 years, Brazil has drastically reduced its infant mortality rate, bringing it down from more than 50% in 1990 to 14% in 2016, according to World Bank data.
Despite the government recent efforts to institute a public health program aimed at basic home care, infant mortality rates are expected to continue to worsen. The director of the non-communicable diseases department and information and analysis at the health ministry, Fatima Marinho, told the Guardian that she expects the infant mortality rate for 2017 to be higher than the 2015 rate.
“We are going backwards, not forwards,” Marinho said.
Up until this increase, Brazil had been applauded for their successful government programs that combined economic growth with poverty reduction. However, the country fell into a recession in 2014, and was faced with a deficit. As a result, President Dilma Rousseff cut government spending including funding for these initiatives. Following Rousseff’s impeachment, her replacement, Michel Temer, made additional budget cuts and froze spending, further devastating these programs.
Although the government cut spending on these programs, they weren’t spending that much money to begin with. According to the Guardian, Jurandi Frutuoso, executive secretary of the national council of health secretaries and a former health secretary of northeastern Ceará state, said “less than half of Brazil’s health spending comes from government — the rest is from private health plans and people’s own pockets — and spending has failed to keep pace with the growing population, technological advances and medical inflation.”