Brazil launches scheme to lift millions out of poverty

Rosineide Lima da Silva and her family in Brasilia live on 250 reais a month Rosineide Lima da Silva and her family could be in line to benefit

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Brazil has launched a welfare scheme to lift millions out of extreme poverty by 2014, which President Dilma Rousseff calls her government's key priority.

The project aims to build on current programmes, which are credited with raising 20 million Brazilians out of poverty over the past decade.

Brazil's economic growth has led to an overall increase in living standards.

But some 16 million people still live in extreme poverty, defined as having 70 reais ($44; £27) or less a month.

"A country that has grown like Brazil can't be content with just having a big social programme like the Family Grant," Social Development Minister Tereza Campello told BBC Brasil.

This refers to the cash transfer scheme that pays up to 242 reais a month, usually to mothers, depending on their income and number of children.

In return, they must ensure their children attend school and are vaccinated.

Cost of living

The aim of the Brasil Sem Miseria (Brazil Without Poverty) scheme is to expand the Bolsa Familia, as well as health and education programmes, and direct more money to Brazil's poorest regions.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff - file photo President Rousseff took office vowing to eradicate extreme poverty

One of the key objectives is to ensure the most destitute can access these programmes, Ms Campello said.

"And for that we need to change the mindset that it is up to a poor person to come to the state, and ensure that the state reaches out to the poor person."

Rosineide Lima da Silva, who lives in a poor district on the outskirts of Brasilia with her three children, said she tried but failed to sign up for benefits.

"I never got a cent from the government. And every month, things just get more expensive," said Ms Lima da Silva, who supports her family on the 250 reais she earns a month as a manicurist.

According to the 2010 Census, 16.2 million people - 8.5% of the population - are classified as being in extreme poverty.

Of these, 59% live in the north-east of Brazil, historically the country's most impoverished region.

"We want to eradicate extreme poverty by 2014 and make Brazil the first developing country to achieve the first of the UN's Millennium Development Goals," said Ms Campello.

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