A Glimpse of Poverty in Northeastern Urban Brazil
Poverty is prevalent in the urban centers of Fortaleza and Recife, where most of Compassion’s northeastern child development centers are located.
- About one-third of Fortaleza’s 2.3 million residents live in the city’s crowded slums.
- In Recife, 46 percent of its 1.5 million residents are slum dwellers.
- Drug trafficking, prostitution, and alcohol abuse are serious, pervasive problems.
- Unemployment is rampant.
- Eighteen percent of families live on the equivalent of a little more than $2 per day.
- Some residents have turned to rummaging through trash from the narrow, dirty streets to make a few cents.
In the Northeastern Urban Region of Brazil
Geography & Climate
- The largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil is slightly smaller in land mass than the United States.
- Both Fortaleza and Recife are located on Brazil’s northeastern Atlantic coast.
- The climate is tropical, and averages 77 degrees year-round.
- Pleasant trade winds from the ocean provide relief from the heat and humidity.
- The rainy season occurs each year from February through May.
- The cities’ beaches are popular tourist destinations.
Brazil 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 families living in Fortaleza and Recife slums typically are crude, fragile constructions of brick, plywood and whatever other scrap materials can be found. These are crowded together in a maze of narrow streets and alleyways.
Homes are sparsely furnished, typically with only a few chairs and a stove. Family members sleep in hammocks, which can be put away during the day to allow more room to move about.
Issues and Concerns
- Families are large, but homes are small and cramped. These are typically dirty, lacking such basics as adequate sanitation and ventilation.
- Despairing adults often turn to alcohol and drug abuse, spending the family’s meager income on these addictions.
- Child abuse is common.
- Malnutrition is also a problem for poor families in Fortaleza and Recife. An estimated 54 percent of all Brazilians who suffer from serious food shortages (about 7.2 million) live in the northeastern states.
Local Needs and Challenges
Families in this region are typically broken and dysfunctional. Children suffer from sexual abuse, domestic violence and low self-esteem.
Slum houses are precariously constructed, made of cardboard or plywood. Even the houses that are built with bricks are often unstable and many have no basic sanitation.
Because of high unemployment, parents cannot adequately feed their children. Many parents leave home to seek jobs in other locations, never to return.
Alcoholism and drug abuse are big problems as well. One of the biggest concerns is keeping young people from getting involved in local drug trafficking activities.
Schools and Education
Poor students attend public schools, where education quality is generally substandard. The schools in this part of Brazil are among the worst in the country.
- Teachers are unqualified and facilities are poor.
- The average number of years spent in school in the northeast is only 5.7.
- More than 18 percent of the population can neither read nor write.
- Rarely do children graduating from public schools pass the rigorous testing required for entrance to college.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Compassion serves children in Brazil’s northeastern region through many child development centers. These centers, hosted by local churches, are havens of love and learning for registered children.
Children are encouraged to develop their talents and abilities. Most important, children learn about God’s love and the gift of salvation in Christ.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In partnership with local churches Compassion is bringing help and hope to children in need in northeastern Brazil, providing them with:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- tutoring to attain standard academic milestones