Child Poverty in Brazil - Facts, Reasons, and what can be
are those that are not taken care of by parents or other
protective guardians. Street children live in abandoned
buildings, cardboard boxes, parks or on the street itself.
Street children are deprived of family care and protection.
Most children on the streets are between the ages of about
5 and 18 years old.
Brazil, a common cause is abandonment by poor families unable
to feed all their children; an increasingly common cause
is AIDS. Other causes are the death of parents or family
members, violence in the home, drug taking and alcoholism.
Once children resort to living on the street there is rarely
any way back from this life, and the life expectancy of
a child living on the streets is terrifyingly low - few
expect to reach their 18th Birthday.
the numbers of Brazilian street children vary from 200,000
to 8 million. In one recent survey in São Paulo,
609 children were found to be sleeping on the streets. At
least 50 were under 12 and unaccompanied by adult relations.
main means of surviving on Brazil's streets include: finding
food in rubbish bins or on refuse tips; being financially
exploited by street sellers as: shoe shiners, thieves, prostitutes,
drug runners, working as street performers and petty theft.
Drug taking is
common amongst street children in Brazil - particularly
glue sniffing as it is cheaper than the alternatives. Drugs
help the children forget their life for a short time, but
have a disastrous affect on their mental and physical health.
They contribute greatly to the downward spiral of a childs
life and can cause a child to become a virtual "zombie"
as mental function is increasingly impaired.
Most street children
are viewed at best as a nuisance and at worst as an infestation
to be eradicated. Because they have no vote or voice there
is little impetus on the politicians to work to solve the
issue. Whilst there is a drive from the presidents office
any actions are so watered down by the time it gets to city
level that they become almost useless.
are already full and apart from jail there are very few
places children can be taken when picked up by the Police
- and these to are almost always full to bursting. There
are simply too many street children for the resources provided
by the government to help.
is the fifth largest country in the world with a population
of approximately 190 million people. The disparity between
the rich and the poor in Brazilian society is one of the
largest. The richest 1% of Brazil's population control 50%
of its income. The poorest 50% of society live on just 10%
of the country's wealth, while the poorest 10% receive less
Brazil also has
the highest number of people living with HIV and AIDS in
South America (estimated at 660,000). Prevalence is rising
rapidly, and many people in need of treatment or care are
excluded from services because of poverty.
means family disintegration, violence and breakup become
more prevalent leading to a growing problem.
So what we
are doing about it?
thing is to try and break the cycle.
It starts with outreach programs such as The Wednesday Club,
this serves several purposes. The children get good food
and safe time to play and be children, during which the
teachers use play to help educate them in certain key messages.
Similarly it acts as a support group for the mothers who
attend, many of shoom have HIV/AIDS - they discuss nutrition
and hygiene, and other issues such as violence, drugs, alcoholism,
medical issues and the like. Everybody gets a medical check
and where possible appropriate medication (the only access
many of these people have to tackle their disease).
next step it a combination of improving the home environment
and education. This has to be assessed on a case by case
basis. The work we do with Sra. Nilzette and Vovo Clara
are good examples of this, as is the IBCM residential program.
Sometimes we can support a family, register them (so they
officially exist) and then register the children with a
local school. Other times we pay a meager sum for children
to attend a local educational project. Where possible the
aim is to support families to help them cope and "nip
the cycle in the bud" - stopping the children from
turning to the street in the first place.
Where there is
no alternative children can be found places in residential
homes or rehabilitation project (drugs are often an issue)
- places on such projects are however few and far between.
Care in many of the residential centres and community projects
is of a poor standard and our trained educators work hard
in several projects to help the teachers and volunteers
improve everything from basic sanitation and nutrition to
a full educational program.
In the future
we hope to raise enough to start opening small childrens
homes in the community. Single houses with 5 to 8 children
and a house parent - where the children get to live in an
extended family, attend local schools and education projects
and as much as possible get to lead normal life. When we
started we had grand ideas of a big childrens home on the
outskirts of the city, however after many visits with projects
and much study of the situation we have come to realise
the very best way to care for the children is first with
their existing family (with support), secondly in a smaller
home which is in the community and more like a big family,
and only as a last resort in a big institution.
The one exception
to this is a half way house - which is desperately needed.
Police regularly pick up street children for petty crimes
and have nowhere to take them other than jail. Even if they
are sent to jail for a period of time when they are released
they are straight back onto the streets again as they have
no other options. Outreach workers would love to have somewhere
they could refer children when they have made a decision
to try and get of the streets - but few such places exist
and they are always full.
What is urgently
needed is a residential home where the Police and others
can take such children to be cared for and helped depending
on their situation. To attempt to trace family members and
encourage them to help, or to find a place in an alternative
project or longer term home - a "drop off" centre
if you like with residential facilities and trained social
workers - but not intended as a permanent institutional
home. Such a project could be started for circa £100,000
with places for up to 30 children and an ongoing costs of
around £2,000 per month.
Please see our
projects section for more information of the work we are
doing at the moment, and more details of our future plans.
How many children
we can help depends on the support we can get.
help if you can!