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2024 Rio Grande do Sul Brazil Floods

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The continuing El Niño weather phenomenon led to record rainfall and flooding beginning April 27, 2024, and continuing through early May in Rio Grande do Sul, a state in southern Brazil. Warm water in the Pacific Ocean, affected by El Niño, and very high temperatures in the South Atlantic Ocean contribute to humidity and increase the amount of rainfall.

In some metropolitan and rural areas, rainfall exceeded 12 inches in less than a week. For example, Bento Gonçalves saw 21.39 inches of rain. In Porto Alegre, more than two months of rain fell in just three days. This area normally receives 4.5 inches of rain in April and 4.4 inches in May, but it received 10.18 inches in those three days.

Located on the Guaiba River, Porto Alegre, the state’s capital, is usually a bustling city home to 1.3 million people. With the airport and bus station closed and main roads blocked because of the floodwaters, the city has been virtually cut off, leaving many residents without essential supplies such as food, water and gas. Many streets remain completely flooded after the Guaiba River breached its banks. The river reached a high of 17.4 feet, breaking the previous record set in 1941 of 15.7 feet. Water and electricity services have also been affected. Nearly 500,000 people were without power in Porto Alegre and nearby towns.

The rain is forecast to continue, delaying recovery and hampering search and rescue efforts and distribution of humanitarian aid. The number of casualties continues to grow, and there have been significant economic losses and destruction of infrastructure. Because many communities, including Porto Alegre, are cut off or have limited access, full assessments have not been completed. The airport is underwater, hampering aid from reaching the area.

This stunning photo essay from The Washington Post highlights the immense destruction caused by the flooding. Needs will be high for years to come.

(Photo: Rio Grande do Sul’s security forces work tirelessly to rescue people from flooding in Porto Alegre, May 3, 2024. Credit: Governo do Rio Grande do Sul via X)

One of several major flooding events in Brazil in recent years, the 2024 floods emphasize the need for early warnings for all and a better response to El Niño, La Niña, and other weather patterns and climate change impacts. A recent climate discussion sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) took place on May 1, with over 60 member states taking part.

In a video message, WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo said, “The impacts of the 2023-2024 El Niño underscore the need to better manage future events. In parallel, human-induced climate change is intensifying impacts of El Niño/La Niña episodes and increasing climate risks. El Niño and La Niña events can be predicted well in advance. This allows society to prepare and thus reduce economic losses and minimize risks to lives and livelihoods. Studies show El Niño Early Warning Systems can provide a two-fold to nine-fold return on investment. Such predictions are a core part of the Early Warnings for All initiative which seeks to expand early warning systems to everyone in the world.”

Following the floods in Brazil in 2022, Reuters reported the flooding “[underlines] a lack of urban planning in low-income neighborhoods throughout much of Brazil, where shantytowns are often built on hillsides prone to collapse. The destruction also comes as scientists begin to question whether abnormal rain cycles in Latin America’s largest nation could be a result of climate change.”

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Key facts
  • While reports vary, at least 90 people have died, four deaths are being investigated, and more than 130 are still missing. At least 370 people have been injured. Causes of death primarily include drowning and landslides.
  • At least 155,000 people have been displaced, and almost 875,000 have been affected across 364 municipalities. More than 20,070 are staying in shelters.
  • At least 1,000 people were rescued by national authorities during search and rescue emergency operations, according to the civil defense of Rio Grande do Sul.
  • Five hydroelectric dams and transmission lines were shut down due to the heavy rains, according to national grid operator ONS. The 14 de Julho dam partially collapsed, causing floods in downstream towns. Search and rescue activities are ongoing, and authorities are monitoring dams across the state.
  • Additionally, only one of Porto Alegre’s six water treatment plants is functioning, and the mayor has declared that water is only available for essential needs.
Housing impacts and rebuilding

A complete count of the loss of housing has not yet been determined, but current estimates indicate more than 155,000 people are homeless.

People who have lost homes will need temporary shelter and assistance rebuilding their homes. Funders can assist by providing support to address temporary living situations and rebuilding homes. Ideally, housing stock should be rebuilt in a more flood-resilient manner by improving the quality of construction and investing in flood-resistant repair techniques.

Agricultural impacts

The corn and soy harvests have been disrupted, and many fields of rice and other grains are underwater, meaning Brazil will likely need to import rice to stabilize supplies. Livestock have been killed, and work at meat production plants has been stopped. Other farmers are racing to rescue livestock from floodwaters and ensure they have food.

Many grain silos are underwater; it is uncertain if they will dry out in time for their grains to be saved. While the Rio Grande Port is operating normally, grain deliveries have been disrupted due to rail disruptions and flooded roads, diverting trucks for hundreds of miles. The port is a major hub for grain exports.

Climate adaptation and mitigation

As with many other recent natural hazards, climate change has played a significant role in these floods. Climate change makes already fragile regions uninhabitable by increasing the impact of storms, floods, wildfires and droughts. Marginalized, displaced and otherwise vulnerable populations in these areas face the biggest impacts from climate change.

Funders can help address these issues by investing in preparedness, mitigation, risk reduction and climate adaptation. It is important that this funding be made available to meet the needs of the most marginalized people.

Critical infrastructure

Extensive clean-up is required for the immediate effects of the flooding. Transportation infrastructure was also affected, and roads and bridges will need repair. The government said it has been unable to put a cost to damages but that the loss of transportation infrastructure is significant.

The impact on critical infrastructure has challenged the ability of governments and humanitarian organizations to carry out both search and rescue and delivery of supplies.

Immediate needs will include protection, emergency shelter, food and non-food items, emergency health care, agricultural support, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Cash assistance

As with most disasters, experts recommend cash donations, which allow on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, support economic recovery and ensure in-kind donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

Many people lost everything in the floods. Direct cash assistance allows families to purchase items and services locally that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant and timely. Cash assistance can also help move families faster toward rebuilding their lives.

Health care support

During natural hazard events, health care needs may increase and result in the outbreak of diseases, especially waterborne and infectious diseases. As heavy rain and floods have displaced thousands of people, humanitarian partners must ensure they can reach affected communities.

This may mean mobile clinics for those on the move or tailored services and assistance that meet the needs and priorities of the communities. Infection prevention and control and treatment measures need to be prioritized for funding. Additionally, funders can support rebuilding WASH infrastructure and supporting access to hygiene needs to help reduce the outbreaks of water-borne diseases.


After a disaster, protecting vulnerable individuals and ensuring access to their basic rights are immediate priorities. Gender-based violence, including sexual assault and trafficking of vulnerable populations, and the protection and security of children are often a concern.

Long-term recovery

Even as emergency and immediate life-saving aid and assistance are ongoing, setting the foundation for long-term recovery can be crucial. Long-term recovery needs include long-term shelter or rebuilding of homes and community infrastructure, livelihood restoration and economic recovery.

The response to the 2022 Pakistan floods, which devastated large swaths of the country, provided key lessons that promote the need for government and communities to collectively engage in clear priorities, such as rebuilding livelihoods and buildings for long-term recovery.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has a Global Recovery Fund that allows donors to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by global crises. Choose 2024 Rio Grande do Sul Brazil Floods from the dropdown menu.

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Philanthropic contributions

If you have questions about donating to the CDP Global Recovery Fund, need help with your disaster-giving strategy or want to share how you’re responding to this disaster, please contact development.

(Photo: Flooding in Rio Grande do Sul, May 3, 2024. (Photo credit: Governo do Rio Grande do Sul via X)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO, please send updates on how you are working on recovery from this disaster to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Philanthropic and government support

On May 6, Brazilian President Lula da Silva announced several emergency aid measures to help victims after touring the most affected regions. On May 6, Lula asked Congress to declare a state of public calamity, freeing up additional resources to respond to the disaster. 

In a post on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “Our hearts go out to those affected by the devastating and tragic floods in Brazil. Apple will be donating to relief efforts on the ground.” 

More ways to help

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

  • Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time and funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places private philanthropy can help that government agencies might not: Private funders have opportunities to develop innovative solutions to respond to and help prevent or mitigate future disasters that the government cannot execute.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities for funding.
  • Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and InterAction can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities. The Council on Foundations provides Country Notes for countries to help foundations understand giving requirements, laws and regulations in various countries.


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Flooding is our nation’s most common natural disaster. Regardless of whether a lake, river or ocean is actually in view, everyone is at some risk of flooding. Flash floods, tropical storms, increased urbanization and the failing of infrastructure such as dams and levees all play a part — and cause millions (sometimes billions) of dollars in damage across the U.S. each year.

Emergency and Interim Shelter

Emergency and Interim Shelter

After a disaster, shelter is more than a place to rest, it is a place of security, access to food, water and medical treatment. A place to start recovering after a disaster.



Landslides are a movement of a mass of rock, debris or earth down a slope. Landslides are a type of ‘mass wasting,’ which denotes any down-slope movement of soil and rock under the direct influence of gravity.