January 8, 2001        

Slums continue to sprawl in Brazil
despite anti-poverty efforts


                  SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Brazil's urban slums -- the most visible sign of the
                  country's poverty and social ills -- continue to sprawl, despite an improving
                  economy and government anti-poverty programs, recent government data show.

                  The number of slums in Brazil has risen by nearly a quarter in the past decade,
                  according to preliminary census figures published Sunday by Folha de Sao Paulo

                  The country's richest region, the southeast, has the largest concentration of
                  slums. Sao Paulo state alone is home to more than 1,500 slums, up 22 percent
                  from 1991, Folha reported. Rio de Janeiro state follows with 811, up 15 percent
                  from the same year.

                  The northern jungle state of Para experienced the most dramatic rise in the
                  number of slums -- 419 percent in the past nine years.

                  Brazil's population increased by about 16 percent during the same period to
                  nearly 170 million.

                  Experts attribute the growth in slums to an ever-increasing number of people
                  who flock to larger cities in search of jobs and better living conditions. More
                  than 80 percent of Brazilians live in cities.

                  "No government prepared itself for that, neither economically to create jobs, nor
                  with a housing policy," sociologist Alba Zaluar was quoted as saying.

                  A slum is a community of more than 50 dwellings illegally occupying a land.

                  Most lack such basic services as sanitation and garbage collection and are often
                  controlled by drug lords, spreading chaos and fear among residents.

                  Last July, the government pledged to spend more than $6 billion over three years
                  to fight poverty in the poorest states.

                  Yet in this country of contrasts, growth is at 4 percent , unemployment is at its
                  lowest in three years and industrial expansion hit a six-year high in October.

                  But the gap between the rich and poor continues to be among the widest in the
                  world. The richest 10 percent of the population in Brazil accounts for 46 percent
                  of the country's wealth, while the poorest 50 percent of Brazilians accounts for
                  just 14 percent.