Last updated:

2024 Rio Grande do Sul Brazil Floods

Support recovery now

The continuing El Niño weather phenomenon led to record rainfall and flooding beginning April 27, 2024 and continuing through mid-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 contributed to humidity and increased the amount of rainfall. While flood waters have receded in some areas, the impacts continue,

From the end of April to mid-May, the area received rainfall three times higher than the usual year-to-date average. On May 15, Reuters reported that some parts of the state had received more than 25 inches of rain in May.

Located on the Guaiba River, Porto Alegre, the state’s capital, is usually a bustling city home to 1.3 million people. The airport remains closed and will likely not reopen in 2024.  Many roads remained damaged well into June, reducing access for residents to essential supplies such as food, water and gas.

Many streets flooded after the Guaíba River breached its banks in early May, reaching a high of 17.5 feet, breaking the previous record set in 1941 of 15.7 feet. While it subsided throughout late May and June, it started rising again in mid-June and is now at 10.8 feet, several inches above flood alert stage, as of June 20.

Many rivers in southern Brazil remain at one of three risk levels: attention, alert or flood (with flood being the highest) as of June 20. More rain is expected and saturated ground means rivers will continue to overtop the banks.

These stunning photo essays from The Washington Post and New York Times highlight 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.

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.”

A recent paper from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change says that because there had not been severe flood events in Porto Alegre this “led to reduced investment, and maintenance of its flood protection system … This, in addition to the extreme nature of this event, contributed to the significant impacts of the flood and points to the need to objectively assess risk and strengthen flood infrastructure to be resilient to this and future, even more extreme, floods.”

The researchers also drew a link between poverty and flood protection systems. If there is not serious mitigation, they feel that the ongoing impacts of climate change will continue to “perpetuate inequalities in urban environments. Unprotected regions, typically inhabited by lower-income populations, face higher risks of flooding and associated impacts. This disparity creates a poverty trap, where those in unprotected areas are more susceptible to flood-related disasters, leading to repeated losses and hindered economic progress. Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive approach to urban planning and flood management that prioritises equitable protection and development.”

Latest Updates

See all

Key facts
  • In terms of impact, many people, including one economist said this disaster is most comparable to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Like the disparities highlighted by Katrina, CNN said the flooding laid “bare some of the country’s persistent social problems: inequality in the emerging economy is still rife; crime rates remain high; and local governance is often dogged by mismanagement and, sometimes, corruption.”
  • The flooding occurred in several already marginalized communities, including 240 favelas, 40 quilombola communities (formed by descendants of slaves) and five Indigenous villages impacted. Citing federal research institution Fiocruz, Agencia Brasil said, “The vulnerability of these communities is aggravated by socio-economic factors and the lack of adequate infrastructure, which are common challenges in historically marginalized regions.”
  • Despite the inequality, World Resources Institute said, “Amidst all this tragedy, we hold onto a hopeful outlook. Reports from our team in Porto Alegre indicate that the greatest rescue and assistance efforts are coming from ‘our people,’ ordinary citizens. They are people who have chosen to stay in the city and help neighbors and strangers in the most affected neighborhoods. They are risking their health and well-being to wade into the muddy waters of Guaíba that have inundated the city.”
  • Rio Grande do Sul’s economy is likely to fall this year as much as 2-4% and could possibly impact the country’s GDP. The state’s economy is as big Uruguay and Paraguay combined.
  • Rio Grande do Sul Governor Eduardo Leite estimated it will cost $3.7 billion to rebuild the state.
  • At least 45,000 businesses in Porto Alegre alone, were affected by the floods. The city’s Chamber of Store Managers “estimates that the total cost to commerce in the city was 487.7 million reals ($91m) between April 29 through May 26.”
  • As of June 14 at 6 p.m. local time, the state Civil Defense agency reported:
    • There have been 176 confirmed deaths, and at least 39 are still missing. At least 806 people have been injured.
    • At least 422, 473 people have been displaced, and almost 2.4 million were affected across 478 municipalities. More than 10,000 people remain in one of 227 temporary shelters still open across 55 communities.
    • At least 77,874 people and 12,543 animals were rescued during search and rescue emergency operations.’
Shelters, housing impacts and rebuilding

At least 200,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, displacing almost 600,000 people.

People who have lost homes will need temporary shelter and assistance rebuilding their homes. Funders can assist by providing support to address needs in temporary living situations and then 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.

Mayor Mateus Trojan of Muçum, a town 90 miles upriver from Porto Alegre says many of the town’s 5,000 residents will need to relocate. He intends to build 40% of the town away from the existing footprint. This is the third time it has flooded in seven months.

Agricultural impacts

The corn and soy harvests were disrupted, and many fields of rice and other grains were underwater, meaning Brazil will likely need to import rice to stabilize supplies. Livestock were killed, and work at meat production plants  stopped because of flooding.

Many grain silos flooded and water sat there for weeks. 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.

Brazil’s National Confederation of Municipalities estimates agriculture and livestock losses of more than $245 million. The state is one of the major agricultural-producing states in Brazil – about 12.6% of the country’s agricultural GDP – including 70% of Brazil’s rice.

Conversely, the livestock and agricultural sectors make up about 17% of the state’s GDP. Major crops include “soybean, rice, wheat, corn, dairy, animal protein and animal feed, fruits, and vegetables. As an impact, the Brazilian bank Bradesco forecasts a 3.5 percent recession in Brazil’s agricultural sector in 2024.”

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.

At least 3,000 health care facilities – doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies, clinics and health centers – were affected by the flooding.

On top of displaced populations, this may necessitate 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.

As of the end of May, there were 2,300 possible and 141 confirmed Leptospirosis cases. There were also seven confirmed deaths and 10 under investigation.

The country also reached 5.5 million dengue cases this year, higher than the worst-case scenario predicted by officials. Nearly 6,000 deaths are confirmed or under investigation. While there may not be a direct link to the floods, a compromised health system makes response more difficult.


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.

Support recovery now

Contact CDP

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.

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.


See them all



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.