The charts that show Brazil’s biggest problem is violence

Brazil’s most recent numbers on violence are staggering: every three weeks, there are more killings in Brazil than in terror attacks everywhere else in the world in 2017.

Per week 1,136 people are murdered in Brazil, according to a report released on Monday 6th. The figures are called a “daily tragedy” by the authors, which compared the stats with the 3,314 deaths by all terror attacks worldwide until May this year.

The soaring levels of violence places Brazil as one of the most violent countries in the world – the nation’s murder rate is five times higher than the global average . In some states, the rate is ten times above that.   Brazil murder map

Who suffer the most?

The victims are the poorest: young black men with few years of education, living in a poverty trap that condemns them to have no better prospects than their parents did.

According to the report, almost half of the 59,080 killings in Brazil in 2015 were against those aged between 15-29.

When split by colour, the figures show how race impact the probability of you living or dying in Brazil: while the murder rate among non-black youths decreased over time (-12.2%), killings among black youths soared (+18.2%).

“The typical kind of victims remains the same: men, young, black and with low levels of education. However, in the last decade, the bias of violence against black youths has increased further,” noted in the report Daniel Ricardo de Castro Cerqueira, a researcher at the think-tank Ipea, which compiled the numbers.

.Murder rate gap

The race bias is also an unfavorable element for black women: while killings of non-black females decreased 7.4% between 2005 and 2015, murders against black women jumped by over a fifth.

“There are racial differences,” said Cerqueira about the findings.

Female killings

Why such violence?

There is a strong correlation between violence and low levels of education and social equality, the report says.

While Brazil’s most peaceful city, Jaraguá do Sul, has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0,803 – similar to Portugal’s 0.830 – the country’s most violent city, Altamira, has a 0,665 HDI – similar to Botswana’s 0.698.

Jaraguá do Sul is located in one of Brazil’s most developed state, Santa Catarina, while Altamira is placed at one of the nations’ most uneducated one, Pará, where poverty, poor sanitarian conditions and low levels of schooling damage future prospects and breed violence.

Number of killings in Brazil over a decade

Brazil’s “national tragedy“, as the researchers phrase it, harms not only Brazilian’s right to life but also the country’s economic prospects. Cerqueira estimates that 1.5% of Brazil’s USD 1.77 trillion GDP is lost to violence.

“Premature deaths represent in themselves a cost of social welfare as they reduce the life expectancy and therefore the ability of individuals to produce and to consume,” wrote Cerqueira in a recent study about the cost of violence among youths in Brazil.

“It is undoubtedly a great human tragedy, with immeasurable implications,” he adds.



Despite restrictive laws, Latin America has the world’s largest unsafe abortion rate

Latin America and the Caribbean have some of the most restrictive laws against abortion in the world, but the region holds the world’s largest rate of unsafe abortions.

According to estimates from the World Health Organization, last published in 2012, 31 in every 1,000 women aged between 15-44 have had an unsafe abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean. The large number of procedures, often undertaken with no assistance of trained professionals and without post-abortion care, is responsible for 13% of all maternal deaths in the region.

When looking at South America alone, 36 in every 1,000 women aged between 15-44 have had an unsafe procedure. The number is more than double the global rate of 14 cases for every 1,000 women.

Unsafe abortion rate and abortion rights

Despite the figures, the majority of countries in the region will only allow abortion in the most extreme circumstances, such as if a woman has been raped or to save a mother’s life. Such restrictive abortion laws are in place in both Brazil and Argentina.

Out of the 34 countries in the region, only Cuba, Mexico, Guyana and Uruguay allow abortion under any circumstance.

Restrictive laws and higher cases of unsafe abortions are strongly linked, according to a study published by WHO and the Guttmacher, a U.S-based institute specialized in sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.

South America's unsafe abortion rate

Africa, abortion and maternal deaths

Africa has the world’s largest percentage of maternal deaths due to unsafe abortion and is one of the regions where laws are the most restrictive.

Three out of five of the continent’s countries only allow a woman to terminate a pregnancy in strict circumstances. Nations such as Congo, Mali and Somalia only allow it to save a woman’s life.

In Eastern Africa, home of countries such as Kenya and Burundi, 18% of all maternal deaths were caused by the unsafe termination of pregnancy, the world’s largest rate.

“Legal restrictions do not stop abortion; mainly, they drive it underground. Too many women are maimed or killed each year because they lack access to legal, safe abortion services,” said Susan Cohen, vice president for public policy at US-based Guttmacher Institute.

“Unrestrictive abortion laws do not predict a high incidence of abortion, and by the same token, highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with low abortion incidence,” noted Gilda Sedgh, a research scientist responsible for WHO’s study on worldwide abortion trends.

Sedgh added: “In Africa, where abortion is highly restricted by law in nearly all countries, there are 650 deaths for every 100,000 procedures, compared with fewer than 10 per 100,000 procedures in developed regions.”  

Liberal laws are not associated with an increase in abortions as highly restrictive measures are not linked with a reduction in procedures. Between 1995 and 2008, abortion rate dropped most where laws are liberal, while it decreased least where abortion is mostly illegal.

Click on the map below for an interactive version:

Abortion rights around the world

In Europe, where the greater majority of countries have liberal laws for women seeking to end a pregnancy, the abortion rate per 1,000 women dropped by 44%. Africa saw the lowest drop of all regions, with a 12% fall.     

Abortion rate percentual change

Cohen, from the Guttmacher Institute, notes: “The evidence makes clear that if a woman is determined to avoid a birth, she will resort to an abortion if that is her only option, regardless of the law. All too often this means putting her own life at risk.

“Until unsafe abortion is embraced as a public health issue needing urgent attention, women, their families and communities will continue to suffer the consequences.”

The ungovernable coalition of Dilma Rousseff

Brazil’s political system is an odd one: presidents in Brazil will always need to form coalitions to govern, even when their party has the majority of the National Congress.

In a country with 32 parties – 28 of them with seats in Congress – that is usually a tough job. And the list is likely to grow: at the moment the Superior Electoral Court is analysing requests from 21 new parties.

The political fragmentation can be seen in the number of parties at the National Congress. This is how the Chamber of Deputies is divided in Brazil:


The situation isn’t different at the Federal Senate. This is how the it is divided:

PartiesAtSenate The Brazilian system is known as a coalitional presidentialism, a term coined by Sergio Abranches in 1988. In 2015, Abranches’ definition seems as accurate as ever.

Here are the parties under the incumbent president’s coalition. Click in the picture for an interactive version of the graphic bellow:


A rebel coalition

Dilma Rousseff’s support base total 70 per cent of the seats in the Senate and 63 per cent of all seats in the Chamber of Deputies, Brazilian lower chamber.

Still, her majority in Congress has not been preventing her from being defeated, bill after bill that her government has sent to parliament.

Her most recent defeat was this Wednesday (6), when the Speaker of the Lower Chamber, Eduardo Cunha (PMDB – Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), who is part of the largest party under Rousseff’s coalition, asked the house to approve a new law changing the maximum age for retirement of the judges at the Federal Supreme Court.

The new bill impacts the number of judges Rousseff could nominate to the Federal Supreme Court until the end of her mandate.

Before the change, the president could nominate five new judges, but now will only be able to do so if a judge steps down.

Rousseff is dealing with dissonant voices even inside her own Worker’s Party (PT). The president needs the Congress to approve a new fiscal package to stimulate the economy, but PT, a left-wing party, fears that the package, which brings austerity measures, will bring negative impact to the party.

This week, Brazil’s former president, Fernando Henrique Cardo (PSDB), from the opposition party, declared that Brazil needs a political reform.

“The Brazilian political system is bankrupted. You cannot govern with 30, 40 parties, 40 ministries. It is unfeasible. It is necessary to use this political crisis to improve the electoral system.”

An earlier version of this post stated that the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies had 22 different parties. The number has been corrected to the right one: 28 parties and the missing ones were included. 

Lies, damned lies, and statistics: why thinking critically about numbers is imperative

There is a popular sentence that says: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Well, as an MA student trying to pursue a career in data journalism I don’t entirely agree with the statement. But the phrase, popularized by the great Mark Twain, is a remind that when dealing with numbers a good dose of skepticism and critical thinking is imperative.

Recently when analysing datasets I could experience how you can create incorrect conclusions when manipulating numbers with not enough thought.

The first dataset was about HIV in the UK. After Nigel Farage’s polemic statement, I wanted to check what was the incidence of new HIV infections while patients were in the UK.

Proportion: a basic and useful concept of statistics

I downloaded a dataset from Public Health England (PHE) about the last nine years of HIV infections and care in the UK.

The dataset specifies the proportion of infections acquired while the patient were in the UK per category: men who have sex with men, heterosexual contact, drug injecting use and “others”. My goal was to find out if there was a trend in HIV infections – and if so, what it was.

I started my analysis focusing on the number of infections per category per year. Then problems appeared.

When looking at the numbers, there was a rise in the number of gay men who had been infected in the UK over the years and a sharp drop of heterosexual people who had contracted the virus while in the country.


It seemed that more gay people were acquiring the disease in this country and less heterosexuals were being infected while being here.

That would be completely fine if not for one reason: it was not telling the whole story.

The big drop in diagnosis amongst heterosexual people was due to a sharp fall in the number of infections amongst this group. It did not mean that less heterosexual people were being infected in the UK.

In fact, the proportion of heterosexual people infected in this country has risen sharply over the past years, from 31 per cent in 2004 to 57 per cent in 2013. And despite the uptrend for gay men seen in the graphic, the proportion of cases UK-acquired had diminished.

In 2013 the proportion of total infections UK-acquired was 66% – an increase from the 48% in 2004. The proportion had increased, despite the fact that the number of infections had dropped.

The correct analysis is here.

Comparisons: getting the numbers right

Recently I have done an analysis about the homicide rate in Brazil. My goal was to check if there was any difference in the way violent crimes affect white and black people.

Again a notion of proportion, a fairly basic principle of statistics, was very necessary.

The dataset I was analyzing had the number of homicides per colour per year from 2010 to 2012 for 5565 municipalities in Brazil. I did a quick pivot table to get the homicide numbers per state and per skin colour.


The numbers were shocking in itself. More than 23,000 thousand young black people were killed in Brazil in 2013. The total number was visibly higher than the 6.806 white young people killed in the same year.

But being Brazil a country with a larger population of black people, how could I compare the two values?

I used the rate formula “fact per 100,000 population“, which is a rate used by demographers in Brazil and by the United Nations when analyzing certain stats, as crimes one.

However, dividing the total number of homicide by 100,000 people wouldn’t neutralize incorrect conclusions. The rule with rates is that, to be a true rate we must try to have only those at risk in the denominator.

There are states in Brazil, such as Bahia, Amazonas e Pará, where the black population accounts for 80 per cent of the inhabitants. In such places, crimes were likely to affect more black people simply because they were the majority.

The solution for a more accurate picture: compare the crimes against black people within the black population and compare the crimes against white people within the white population.

Such analysis made possible, for example, to see that, in the state of Santa Catarina, even though the total number of homicides against white people were three times higher than the number against black people, the homicide rate per 100,000 was still higher for black people.


What I learnt from these episodes: numbers can’t be detached from the whole picture. Proportions are more important than real numbers and you may mislead your audience if you don’t present the context where your numbers are inserted.

Want to know more?
Here are some resources:

How to lie with statistics. Darrell Huff (1950, still relevant).
Basics of statistics.Jarkko Isotalo (2007).
The essential concepts of statistics. Scott Adams.   

The Deadly Reality for Young Black People in Brazil

If you are a young black citizen in Brazil, your chance to be killed is 282 per cent more if you were born white.

Depending on where you live, the chance is 10 times higher.

According to the latest data available about homicides in Brazil, 23,140 black people aged 15-29 were killed in the country in 2012. That means 82 black young people were murdered in every 100,000 black inhabitants.

The rate for young white people is equally alarming: 29 people in every 100,000 white population were killed in the country in 2012.

Both numbers are much higher than the acceptable rate of 10 cases in every 100,000 people by the World Health Organization (WHO). Above this rate, the organization considers violence to be epidemic.


Brazil crime rate is astonishingly high: 56,337 citizens were killed in the country in 2012. That means 156 people were murdered every day, a number that makes Brazil one of the most violent in the world. Young people have accounted for almost half of the victims.

The map of violence

Homicides affect young black and white people in different ways depending on where they live.

In Alagoas State, in the Northeast of Brazil, the homicide rate is of 192 cases in every 100,000 black young people. That is 10 times higher than the rate registered among the young white population. Alagoas is also the third poorest state in Brazil, and ranks 25th amongst the 27 federative units in the list of GDP per person.

In the map bellow it is possible to see what are the states with higher homicide rates. Check the interactive version for visualizing numbers and rates for each state.  


The disparity in how crimes affect more dramatically black communities has led the International Annisty to create the campaign “Jovem Negro Vivo” (Young Black Alive) to fight what the organization calls “indifference” in the Brazilian society.

In the video, youths who are murdered become merely invisible.

The high rate of crimes involving black and poor communities is being analyzed by the Lower Chamber. A Commission has been installed based on the Map of Violence, a study conducted by Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz, from Flacso Brasil.

Waiselfisz said about the commission:

“The majority of homicides [in Brazil] happens among relatives, neighbors and friends for trivial reasons. With the wide circulation of weapons, any conflict becomes lethal. And, most seriously, there is the institutional tolerance to blame the victim. We are unable to institutionally address violence. Rates [of  murder] are only increasing.”

The Commission has been installed in a moment that the Senate tries to change the law to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16.

Waiselfisz believes changing the law is not a solution for violence in Brazil:

“We have about 600,000 people jailed in Brazil and more killings. We never had so many prisoners and have more homicides. Changing the law isn’t effective. We have very good laws, such as the Statute of Children and Adolescents, but these laws are not applied.”

HIV in the UK: what you need to know

When Nigel Farage recently talked on TV about the costs HIV has in the NHS, he used that old anti-immigrant rhetoric to say millions of pounds were being spent on treating non-Brits.

Last year he also said that Britain should not let in migrants if they had HIV.

Farage’s comments have caused outrage, but it has also brought the term HIV to the headlines and opened up an space for debating what the disease is really like in the UK in 2015.

Here is what you need to know:

1) HIV is everyone’s problem:

An estimated 107,800 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2013, according to Public Health England’s latest data about the disease. A quarter of people estimated to be living with HIV were unaware of their infection in 2013 and remain at risk of passing on their infection if having sex without condoms. 

In 2013 alone, 6,000 new cases were identified in the UK. Of those cases, 38.2 per cent affected people born in the UK.

Considering HIV is a communicable disease, focusing on geographic discrimination, not on treating all people infected will cause the epidemic to soar, not to refrain.

Planilha 7

2) The proportion of HIV infections acquired in the UK is actually rising

If considering not the place of birth from people newly infected, but actually where they have contracted the virus, the official data shows that the proportion of infections acquired in the UK has risen over the past decade.

In 2004, 48 per cent of the total number of new diagnosis (7.700) had been acquired in the UK. In 2013, this number has risen to 66 per cent of the total (6.000).

You can explore the data yourself. Click here to check the interactive version of the graphic bellow:


3) HIV has no face – and misconceptions only cause the virus to spread

The greatest enemy for fighting HIV is certainly stigma and misinformation. Believing that HIV only affects an specific sexual group or people with a certain sexual behaviour is an utter misconception.

These are the groups diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013 considering the probable form of contact with the virus:


4) Prevention and education should be the focus

Despite the fact that HIV is entirely preventable, education programs in the UK receive a tiny amount of the budget for fighting HIV.

A report by the House of Lords in 2011 revealed that only £2.9m was spent on national prevention programmes in 2011/12. The amount is less than half a percent of the £762m spent on treatment and care in England in that year. The report said: 

“Spending on prevention is seriously inadequate. HIV is entirely preventable but the latest figures show that the Government spent only £2.9 million on national prevention programmes, compared with £762 million on treatment. In a number of cases general sexual health campaigns have made no mention of HIV.”

It continues:

“Widespread public ignorance must be tackled. […] A better understanding of HIV would also help tackle persisting stigma and discrimination – which prevents people coming forward for testing. The teaching of issues related to HIV and AIDS in schools is inadequate, with one survey showing that a quarter of young people had not learnt about HIV and AIDS in the classroom. New measures need to be pursued urgently.”

5) Public ignorance is causing new infections among young men to soar

The number of new infections amongst young gay men in the UK, aged 15-24, is the highest since 1998, according to official data. Considering the last decade alone, the number of infections affecting this group almost doubled. There has also been a rise in diagnosis among those aged 25-34.

Campaign groups attribute the numbers to a lack of adequate sexual education and information at schools. A recent study by National Aids Trust with young gay men aged 14-19 has showed that over a quarter (27%) did not know how HIV was passed on.


6) Only two things can help stop HIV: information and condom

HIV has no vaccine, it has no cure, but it is preventable. Research has showed that safe sex is crucial for preventing the disease.

Information is also key. According to HIV Prevention England, “HIV stigma still plays a large part in reluctance both to test and to disclose a positive diagnosis, leading to poor personal and public health.”

With a quarter of the people living with HIV in the UK unaware of their condition, improving testing is highly important as it prevents ongoing transmission of the virus.

In a report from November 2014, Dr Valerie Delpech, head of PHE ‘s national HIV surveillance, said:

“People diagnosed promptly with HIV infection can expect to live long and healthy lives. However, in 2013 people diagnosed with HIV late were 10 times more likely to die in the first year of diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly. People who remain unaware of their infection are also at risk of transmitting HIV to others.”

Less stigma and more information is what UK needs to fight HIV.