Great progress has been made in terms of human development in Brazil in recent years, but the socioeconomic situation of thousands of families means that their lives remain extremely insecure and often unsafe. Young people from struggling families are particularly vulnerable, and both parents and children need support.
A large urban metropolis in the midst of thick rainforest
Smiling girl in Manaus (photo: P. Wittmann)
Manaus is the capital of Amazonas state in northern Brazil and has a population of around 1.9 million. It is an important financial, commercial and economic centre in the region and attracts a great deal of tourism. Almost half of the entire population of the Amazon lives in Manaus.
The high rate of internal migration from rural areas to Manaus means that much of the city’s population is essentially made up of “urban indigenous” people who have left their traditional lifestyles behind in search of opportunity. However, what they find does not always live up to what they had hoped for. Many live in makeshift housing that lacks infrastructure; only 17 per cent of homes here have sewage systems, for example.
The incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, in particular, is also high in this region. It increased from 3.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 1994 to 15.7 in 2004, and has continued to rise since. Education on the issue is therefore urgently required.
Young people and children who have lost their parents need support
Another huge problem is that Manaus is an important stopover on many drug trafficking routes, with smugglers from neighbouring Peru, Venezuela and Colombia passing through the little-regulated rainforest regions on their way to the large southern cities like Rio de Janeiro. This has led to a severe rise in violence and homicide.
The local market for cocaine has also grown significantly, and young people are most endangered by this phenomenon. They may be tempted by the easy money the drug trade offers and, before they know it, they are inextricably entangled in a web of violence and substance abuse.
The work of SOS Children’s Villages in Manaus aims to provide support to families to help them stay together and care for their children, as well as to offer a loving home to children who have lost parental care.
What we do in Manaus
Mother and daughter having lunch (photo: P. Wittmann)
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Manaus in 1994. Today, our social centre here provides a family strengthening programme, which aims to alleviate hardship in the community in a holistic and sustainable manner. Its services include a day-care centre and childminding programme where children can be cared for. This allows working parents and single mothers to leave their children in safe hands while they are out making a living. Our efforts also address the needs of parents, providing support and training.
For children from the area who are no longer able to live with their parents, SOS families can provide a loving home. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
When young people from the village feel ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme makes shared accommodation available to them. With the support of qualified counsellors, the young people live together and learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.