Monday, 17 January 2011
When Charity Should Begin At Home
Last Wednesday heavy rains unleashed mudslides before dawn in many remote parts of Brazil and hundreds were killed while they slept.
Flooding and mudslides are common in Brazil when the summer rains come, but last week's were among the worst in recent memories. The disasters punish the poor, who often live in rickety shacks, with little or no foundations and perched perilously on steep hillsides. But even the rich did not escape in Teresopolis - 40 miles north of Rio de Janeiro - where large houses were washed away.
The catastrophe has killed at least 564 people in the region and many people are still missing. Access to some communities is only by foot as the mudslides have washed away any roads.
Despite the horrors those more fortunate locals have volunteered assistance - an action which is reported as unusual in a country that sees lethal floods almost every year. Credit for this is given to bloggers and social media where the disaster has been highlighted.
Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's new president, has been in office just over two weeks. She has labelled the destruction as 'an act of God' while simultaneously criticising the illegal occupation of land in the hillside locations where the poorest build their shanties.
Brazil manages a peacekeeping mission in Haiti ($350 million) and makes in-kind contributions to the World Food Programme ($300 million). This is in addition to humanitarian assistance and contributions to multilateral development agencies. The scale of this aid is on par with China and India and ahead of many western donors. (source Wikipedia)
Isn't this a case of charity begins at home? Brazil is the largest national economy in Latin America and the world's eighth largest economy. Where's the political will to ensure the country's infrastructure is stable enough to cope with these regular landslide disasters? Much could be done but is not.
Update: Since writing this post this came to my attention. I reiterate. It is happening in the world's eighth largest economy.