Brazil: Five things you didn't know about the state of Amazonas

March 2, 2015


A boat navigates the Black river in Manaus

Mariana Kaipper Ceratti/ World Bank

Seen from above, the state of Amazonas presents a vast panorama of forests, with rivers everywhere. The fact is that this largest Brazilian state exceeds in area the entirety of the country’s southern and southeastern regions. Seen from close up, however, it also presents colossal challenges. Let’s consider these.

1.         It is one of Brazil’s most isolated states

With only 2.23 residents per square kilometer, Amazonas has the second lowest population density of any Brazilian state, ranking behind only Roraima (which is also in the North). There’s more: practically speaking, its capital city, Manaus, can be reached only by air or boat (cars must enter via Roraima). Given this scenario, one can imagine the challenges that must be met in order to provide quality public services to the most isolated population groups, including services in the areas of public safety and protection of women.

2.         It is becoming an arena for new experiments in deterring violence against women

“The office of the executive secretary of policy toward women offers different types of the State’s professionals, such as the police, training in the enforcement of the Maria da Penha Law both in Manaus and in the interior. Furthermore, in order to deal with the problem of isolation, the State has found innovative ways to provide services to women through use of mobile units like boats and buses,” World Bank economist Laura Zoratto observes. The Bank is spearheading a project designed to promote gender equality in Amazonas and address other issues. The partnership it signed with the state in May 2014 supports an expansion of these efforts.

It is important to emphasize that the state’s homicide rate per 100,000 women is one of the lowest in Brazil, but it is frighteningly high when the figures for the capital city are viewed separately. In 2010, Manaus had the third highest rate of gender violence in Brazil, with 11.5 women killed per 100,000 people.

3.         It will improve revenue collection and control spending in order to provide better public services

Besides promoting the rights of women in Amazonas, the project will benefit the economy and public safety as a whole. The State will be able to implement the Electronic Invoice (Nota Fiscal) system at the consumer level, reform competitive bidding procedures to make them more transparent and efficient, and integrate the agencies that are responsible for public safety.


Police map occurences of gender violence 

Mariana Kaipper Ceratti / World Bank


Manaus is home to one-fourth of the extremely poor residents of Amazonas

Mariana Kaipper Ceratti/ World Bank

4.         It is Brazil’s fourth poorest state

Offering better public services is even more important when one considers that nearly 17% of the state’s 3.6 million people live below the poverty line. Furthermore, 7.1 percent are classified as extremely poor. Manaus, in turn, is home to one-fourth of the extremely poor residents and 48 percent of the vulnerable population.

5.         Amazonas will use technology and infrastructure to improve the lives of its poorest citizens

In order to compensate for the isolation of its municipalities, in 2011 Amazonas established a geo-referencing office to map the territory and identify localities where the need for new schools and hospitals, for example, is greatest. In the past three years, the state has been using that same technology to improve public safety in the neighborhoods of Manaus: the police can access the map using their cell phones; when someone files a complaint or a crime occurs, it is easier for them to find the location.

Also in Manaus, a future partnership with the World Bank will focus on such objectives as revitalizing the city center, improving public transportation and traffic management—thus primarily benefiting its poor, who live in the more distant neighborhoods—and improving elementary education. As is being done with the state government, the project will help the city modernize its financial management practices.