SOS Children's Village Igarassu

Although Brazil is often considered a rising economic power, poverty levels in many parts of this Latin American country remain high. In Brazil's northeast, child prostitution is on the rise as children from marginalised families are lured into commercial sex work.

In Igarassu, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is still widespread

SOS brothers posing for the camera (photo: SOS archives)
SOS brothers posing for the camera (photo: SOS archives)

Igarassu is a town in Brazil's state of Pernambuco, located around 32 kilometres from Recife, the fourth largest city in Brazil. Nearly 25 per cent of the population of Recife is under the age of 15. Poverty marks the lives of tens of thousands in the area who are without medical infrastructure, sanitation and decent housing. Because of economic hardship, many families send their children out to work when they are as young as five years old.

Homicide rates in Brazil are traditionally higher than in most other Latin American countries, in particular among young males between 15 and 19 years of age with little or no educational background. Walking the streets of Recife after dusk can be extremely dangerous: the city is marked by the second highest murder rate in the country after Rio de Janeiro.

Roughly one third of the population has to live on less than half the country's minimum wage. A rising number of children in the north-east of Brazil are being forced into prostitution as a result of poverty and a lack of family care. Having lost the care of their parents, many of these children have no one to turn to. Many end up on the streets where their lives are marked by illicit drug abuse and violence. According to reports, children aged ten or sometimes even younger are lured into Recife's commercial sex industry, where demand from North American and European sex tourists is ever increasing.

Around one third of Recife's street children have never attended school. Without a basic level of education, their chances of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty once they become adults are fairly slim.

SOS Children's Village provides support to families in need

The north-eastern part of Brazil has not yet been able to benefit much from the economic boom that Brazil has been experiencing lately. Many people from all over the region move to Recife and its suburbs in search of work and a better life. However not all of them find employment, and with the unemployment rate being so high, tens of thousands have to earn their money in the informal sector where protection and workers' rights are often nothing but wishful thinking.

Due to the precarious situation they face, many parents are simply not able to care for their children. In order to support these struggling families, SOS Children's Villages decided to start working in Igarassu, in order to give their children a brighter future.

What we do in Igarassu

Children playing Maracuta (photo: SOS archives)
Children playing Maracuta (photo: SOS archives)

SOS Children's Villages has been working in Igarassu since 2007.

Strengthening families: Our SOS Social Centres offer family strengthening programmes that aim to strengthen existing family ties so that children can grow up in their own loving family. We have been supporting families and their communities by strengthening their economic autonomy and self-reliance, trying to prevent family break-ups that may happen as a result of poverty or dysfunctional family structures.
Our activities focus on building self-esteem, improving gender relations and preventing domestic violence.

Care in families: When children can no longer stay with their birth families they can find a loving home in SOS families. The SOS mothers provide the children with a loving, stable and supportive environment. Some families live in houses integrated into the neighbourhood, and all children attend the local schools and this way they are part of the community. When the children grow older, we give them training and advice so that they can find a job.