Latin America and the Caribbean

Serviço Brasileiro de Justiça e Paz (SEJUP)
14 December 1995

CHILDREN'S' ISSUES: Reports Show Worsening Conditions of Children

Two reports were published on December 11 giving detailed information of the living conditions being experienced by Brazilian children. The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Economics (IBGE) published a report entitled "Children and Adolescents - Social Indicators" and UNICEF published its annual report on children.

According to the coordinator of the IBGE study, Lenildo Fernandes Silva, during the 1980s the growth in the economy did not bring an improvement in social indicators. "The economic model is excluding more and more" he commented. His study shows that the number of children and adolescents under 17 years of age living in families earning up to half a minimum salary each month (US $50) has increased. For example in the north-east 26.4% of all children and adolescents live in such families as compared to 10.6% in 1980. When rural areas of the northeast are examined the situation has grown worse at an alarming rate during the same period. In 1980, 23.6% of rural children and adolescents lived in families earning up to half a minimum salary. The figure for 1991 was 50.8%.

However the more prosperous southeast has shown a marked decline when similar statistics are compared. In 1980 in this region 7.9% of rural children and adolescents were members of families earning up to half a minimum salary. By 1991 this figure had increased to 25.2%. Illiteracy amongst children and adolescents dropped in this 11 year period. In 1980, 20.6% of children between 11 and 14 years were illiterate. The 1991 figure stands at 16.1%.

The UNICEF reports shows that the death rate of children in Brazil between 0 and 5 years is 61 per 1000. This compares with war-torn Bosnia where the death rate for the same age group is 17 per 1000. According to the UNICEF representative in Brazil, Agop Kayayan, considering the degree of economic development in Brazil this figure is extremely high. He estimated that it should stand somewhere between 15 and 20 per 1000. He commented that above this number the children are dying from diarrhea or easily avoidable diseases. He went on to note that children living in such places as the shanty towns of Rio de Janeiro and on the periphery of Sao Paulo live in a war situation similar to the conflict in former Yugoslavia - "it is a similar situation: children use arms, they die as soldiers, they act as adults in an adult world and they are transformed into super violent citizens". Mr. Kayayan remembered that it was not sufficient to build schools but it is necessary to invest in the quality of basic education.

During 1994, 113,000 children under 14 years died in Brazil according to statistics of the IBGE. Of these deaths, 7.2% were provoked by violence.


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