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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 21:10 GMT
Brazil launches anti-poverty drive
Paulo Cesar Rodrigues da Silveira, a jobless 27-year-old musician in Sao Paulo, offers his kidney for sale
Brazil still suffers from a desperate rich-poor gap
The Brazilian president has launched an ambitious programme to eliminate poverty in Brazil, the biggest country in Latin America.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula, aims to make a real difference for millions of people by the end of this year alone.

Lula delivers his speech
Everyone... [will] eat a decent meal three times a day, every day, without needing donations from anyone

Lula
Zero Hunger, as the programme is known, is one of the principal pillars of the new, leftist president's social agenda.

"We are going to create the conditions so that everyone in our country can eat a decent meal three times a day, every day, without needing donations from anyone," he said at the launching ceremony in Brasilia.

The president toured the vast country's poorest regions soon after taking office this month and promised help to the destitute.

The new programme is meant to supply 1.5 million of the poorest families, especially in the north-east, with a monthly income of $15 to buy basic foods by the end of the year.

It will also continue previous government initiatives, such as cash handouts given on condition that children are sent to schools where they get free meals.

Earlier this week, Lula called on world leaders in Davos, Switzerland, to set up a global anti-poverty fund.

Cash cards

Lula launched the new programme in front of an audience of 500 invited guests.

The government, which has earmarked $500m of its funds for the programme, is also appealing to Brazil's wealthy to donate and supermodel Gisele Bundchen has already given almost $30,000.

Brazil's poor
World's 10th biggest economy
46 m out of 170 m people live on less than a dollar a day
The president warned that hunger could not de defeated by "isolated government measures".

"Conquering hunger will demand a lot of effort, a lot of persistence, a lot of courage and dedication from all of us during the next four years," he said.

The BBC's Tom Gibb reports that most of Brazil's projects for the long-term elimination of hunger are still on the drawing-board, with serious arguments within Lula's administration on how to proceed.

Gisele on the catwalk of Sao Paulo Fashion Week
Lula is asking the rich to pitch in like model Gisele
Initially, the centrepiece of the programme was to be through handing out coupons to buy food, but the idea was dropped after experts said it would merely create a black market in coupons.

So now recipients will be given an electronic card which will allow them to claim their $15 a month in cash to buy food.

The first recipients will be in Guaribas and Acaua, in the northeastern Piaui region, where more than 700 families will shortly collect their aid cards.

Areas badly hit by drought are being given special attention under the programme.

In Brazil, a nation of about 170 million, about 46 million people live on less than a dollar a day.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Gibb
"There is going to be emergency food aid"
See also:

26 Jan 03 | Business
28 Oct 02 | Americas
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