select a page
Life on the Street
Improving the Favelas
The Land and Climate
Data File

Life on the Street


©Simon Scoones/Worldaware
Many children live on the street in cities like Rio de Janeiro. For some, the streets are a workplace to earn money supporting the rest of the family. For others, the streets are their home, day and night.

The Global Picture
Brazil is not the only country where children live on the street. According to Action International, there may be 100 million street children worldwide. Find out about the numbers of young homeless people elsewhere by rolling your cursor over the map.

Canada Mexico The Philippines Cambodia India Ghana England Russia Turkey Russia

A Poor Start
Every child has a different story to explain why they live on the streets but poverty is a common cause. Many poorer children have to earn money from an early age. Working days for these children are long, and home may be too far away, especially when they don't have the money to catch a bus. As a result, many return home only on weekends, and spend the other nights sleeping rough.

How is this boy earning a living?

But like many homeless young people in the UK, other street children have no home at all. Extreme poverty puts great stress on family life and most have run away from home because of a family breakdown, domestic violence or abuse. A growing number have become orphans because of AIDS.

New Dangers
Street children have to learn to fend for themselves, but life can be difficult and dangerous. If they can't make enough money, children may have to search for food in garbage bins or beg from passers by. Without a proper diet and sleeping in unsanitary places, street children are more vulnerable to food poisoning, infections from parasites and other health problems.

Some find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Older children are often approached to become street dealers of drugs like crack. About 500,000 girls are forced into prostitution as a way of earning a living in Brazilian cities. Sexual activity amongst street children is often unprotected, and a growing number are at risk of catching sexually transmitted infections. Doctors claim that there may be two thousand street children who are HIV positive in Rio alone.

Meanwhile, some children are murdered by vigilante groups. For the vigilantes, they are merely "cleaning the streets". They see street children as a menace, giving the city a bad name and putting off investors. Sometimes, corrupt police officers join the 'death squads' to top up their low salaries. When military police gunned down eight street children sleeping on the steps of Candelària Cathedral in downtown Rio in 1993, it made the headlines across the world. Yet Amnesty International estimate that more than 90% of these murders go unpunished.

Recognising Rights

©Bill Gentile/Rex Features
"Children have the right to be properly cared for and protected from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents or anyone who looks after them".

Article 19, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Go to www.unicef.org/crc/crc.htm for the whole Convention.

Like all children, street children have rights. Pretending they don't exist is not the solution. Instead, street children need help in finding safe and legal ways of looking after themselves, and advice on how to make the right choices in areas that matter to them, like drug abuse and sexual health.

Click on the icons to find out about two projects that help Rio's street children:

Finding a Voice
Acquiring new Skills

The Abandoned Street Kids of Brazil is a small UK-based charity that has its own projects to help street children in Rio. Visit www.taskbrasil.org.uk to find out more, including ways in which you can get involved.

Check out www.sln.org.uk/geography/brazil/Homeless.html for more information and ten more images of homeless people in Rio.
Without improvements in the conditions of Rio's favelas, more children may find themselves living on the street.

Go to the next page to find out about some of the ways in which the quality of life in Rio's favelas is being improved.