A Glimpse of Poverty in Northeastern Rural Brazil
Codó is a city of 111,000 people in Brazil’s northeastern state of Maranhão, the poorest state in Brazil. The city is in a remote area of the state called the “coconut region.”
- Alcohol abuse and unemployment are rampant in Codó.
- Stable jobs are rare.
- Nearly 75 percent of families exist on the equivalent of less than $1.50 per day.
- Many children suffer from malnutrition.
- It is common to see young children going naked, as their families simply cannot afford to clothe them.
- Drug trafficking and violent crime are common.
- Children are recruited into the drug trade at an early age and they typically consider drug traffickers as heroes.
In the Northeastern Rural Region of Brazil
Geography & Climate
- The climate here is always hot, ranging from 80 degrees in the winter to 104 degrees in the summer.
- Three rivers cross the city of Codó: the Codozinho, Itapercuru and Saco. During the summer rainy season, these rivers often overflow, flooding streets and homes.
The largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil is slightly smaller in land mass than the United States, and is the continent’s leading economic power. However, the country struggles with poverty, which affects 26 percent of the population.
Children at Home
The homes of Codó families typically are crude constructions of clay and coconut tree branches. The roofs are made of straw, providing little protection from the drenching summer rains.
During the wet months, the dirt floors of these homes turn to mud. And in the heat of the afternoon, they are unbearably hot, driving families outdoors until the late evening hours.
Issues and Concerns
- Codó has no public transportation system.
- About 25 percent of the population has no access to electricity or garbage collection services.
- Seventy percent of homes have no sanitation facilities, except for a hole in the ground behind the house, which serves as a family’s toilet.
- Families in Codó are typically large.
- Girls commonly have their first babies at age 13 or 14.
- Because few mothers have access to adequate medical care, infant mortality is high.
- A major health concern is the use of clay ovens, which fill homes with smoke that commonly results in chronic respiratory illness.
- The city’s one public hospital cannot keep up with the population’s medical needs.
Local Needs and Challenges
Children live in poorly constructed houses, most of which are built with mud, with no locks on the doors.
Most houses in this region lack sanitation. The lack of sanitation is a particular health risk for the city’s children.
Parents are stressed, unemployed and do not understand their roles as caregivers. Child neglect and abuse are widespread.
Mothers are often negligent about their children’s care, which in the worst cases results in physical abuse by other caregivers or neighbors.
Schools and Education
Without public transportation, children in Codó often have to walk several miles to the nearest school.
- The quality of education is extremely low and their operation is sporadic.
- Teacher strikes are frequent.
- More than 61 percent of the city’s people have attended school an average of only two years.
- More than 47 percent of those age 15 and over are unable to read or write.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Compassion centers in this region address the influence of drug trafficking and violence by showing children a different path from that offered by their communities considered to be the “normal way.”
Centers teach children and teenagers the evils of engaging in illicit activities and frequently conduct anti-drug campaigns. Children learn that drugs are not the solution to financial or emotional problems.
To combat child neglect and abuse, Compassion centers advocate for child protection and involve staff, parents and children. They raise awareness of how to prevent abuse and what to do when it happens, including which legal mechanisms families should use for help.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local churches Compassion is bringing help and hope to children in need in urban Codó, providing them with:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- hygiene training
- encouragement to have a vision for their future, to dream of career possibilities and to develop their skills