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Magali do Nascimento Cunha at the Bethesda excavations next to St Anne’s church in Jerusalem. © Peter Kenny / WCC

Magali do Nascimento Cunha at the Bethesda excavations next to St Anne’s church in Jerusalem. © Peter Kenny / WCC

On the world scale of countries with plentiful water, Brazil comes out in the top league.

It has 12 percent of the world’s fresh water supplies.

Yet Magali do Nascimento Cunha does not see her country scoring so well when it comes to water and sanitation distribution.

A professor in communications at the Methodist University in São Paulo, the city with the world’s 12th biggest population, Cunha notes there are challenges in her country, and as in so many other places, it is the poor who suffer.

“For the still high number of poor Brazilians living in urban slums, or favelas, and in rural areas there is insufficient access to piped water or sanitation,” said Cunha.

She was speaking in Jerusalem during a meeting of the International Reference Group (IRG) of the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace held in Jerusalem, in February.

Seven Weeks for Water, a Lenten campaign on water justice, is focusing on Palestine, where a much poorer population does not have access to the same quality of water as Israel.

In Brazil, with a population of some 204 million people out of Latin America’s 600 million, a lot of people need water, “But there is also a scarcity of water in the northeast of Brazil - showing the inequalities that exist between north and south in Brazil.”

Approximately 20 million people or one-third of the rural population of Brazil have no access to basic services such as safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, says the Global Water Partnership (GWP).

The National Health Foundation reported that in 2007 only 28 percent of the rural population was connected to a drinking water supply and the connection to a sewage system was 22 percent.

“Brazilian state water companies offer their services to urban areas and do not include rural and small communities as objects of their business,” says GWP.

“A lot needs to be done,” says Cunha. “There are problems for many poor with the prices they pay for water which is exacerbated by privatization of suppliers.

“We have a long way to go to having water justice in our country.”

More information:

Seven Weeks for Water 2016

A video by CONIC  (National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil) on sanitation issues in Brazil, March 2016