Behind the scenes at the World Cup: The tragedy of street children in Brazil

Approx. 30,000 families evicted from their ‘homes’

Brussels, 25 June 2014 – The whole world has its eyes on Brazil. On television, via the internet and on big screens erected in squares, parks and stadiums  around the world. All against a backdrop of colourful, jubilant people. The word “Brazil” evokes images of happy, smiling people, dancing away under a never-ending summer sun. And more recently, of course, the word has become synonymous with football. The truth, however, is far more sinister. Every day, 24 children are murdered in Brazil. In the centre of Rio, around 7 million people live in extremely precarious circumstances in so-called “favelas”, the Brazilian slums. The Brazilian police has been given the task by the government of ensuring the outside world does not get to see these signs of poverty or the street children who have fallen victim to them. The latter have been herded away like animals. Locked up in prisons in inhumane and degrading conditions. Tortured. Killed. Help is urgently needed for these children. The Brazilian government has an enormous amount of money invested in the World Cup, and this while huge cross-sections of its own population live in abject poverty. To draw attention to this dark side of Brazil, KIYO, the NGO that defends the rights of children around the world, erected its own screen BEHIND the World Cup big screen at Lier Stadium during the Belgium v. Russia match on 22 June. With the intention of – quite literally – showing what goes on behind the scenes at the World Cup: the flipside of the coin. The event was filmed on camera and can be viewed here.

24 children killed every day

Brazil is one of the top 10 countries with the highest rate of inequality in the world. The Rio suburb of “Baixada Fluminense” consists of a strip of densely populated, impoverished areas where around 7 million people live in squalid conditions, without sanitation or urban planning and often amongst high rates of street and drug-related crime. To make place for the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016, nearly 30,000 families were forced to leave their ‘homes’. With an average of 50,000 killings every year, Brazil is one of the most violent countries in the world. Children are the biggest victims: violence is currently the most common cause of death amongst minors between 1 and 19 years of age (53%). According to official figures released by SMAS (“Secretaria Municipal de Assistência Social”) around 4000 children “disappeared” in Rio during the social clean-up for the Rio+20 international climate summit that took place in June 2012. Every day, 24 children are killed on the streets. Excessive force on the part of the police is one of the biggest factors. Iris Bogaerts, General Manager of KIYO, demands urgent action on behalf of the most vulnerable children: “The situation in Brazil is unprecedented. Children are being herded by the police like animals. Their food and mattresses are being confiscated. They are being tortured in the streets and taken away and locked up in prisons where the most unthinkable scenes take place. KIYO fights for the rights of children who are most at risk. Those children who are least able to defend themselves and stand up for their rights deserve to be given the highest priority. Rio’s street children need help!”


Violence against youth in Brazil in figures:

-       According to WHO, Brazil comes in at no. 4 on the list of 99 countries with the highest rates of child killings.

-       Of the 52 198 officially registered killings in Brazil last year, 27 471 were minors.

-       At present, an average of 24 children are killed in the country every day.

-       Violence against children in Brazil has increased by 346% over the past 30 years.

-       In big cities like Rio, 53% of those children are killed as a result of gun-related violence. 71% of these children are of Afro-Brazilian origin.

-       More than half of these killings are the result of the drug trade.

The World Cup and Prostitution

An estimated 25,000 children reside at high social risk in the streets in Brazil. Of them, around 10,000 are “real” street children: forced to survive on the streets without their immediate family. 40% of these street children are girls. The FIFA World Cup has attracted around 600,000 visitors to the country. This high concentration of people has a high potential for increasing the demand for prostitution and fueling the already existing human traffic of children to the Brazilian capitals with a view to “employment” in the sex trade. “According to UNICEF figures, around 100,000 children were at work in the sex trade in 2001,” says Iris Bogaerts, General Manager of KIYO. “This figure had already increased in 2012 to half a million. There are children who already begin soliciting at the age of 12, often to help pay for their mother and/or father’s drug addiction.” There are several children’s rights at stake here: the right to adequate housing, the right to protection from abuse and exploitation, the right to live in a safe environment, the right to education, the right to adequate healthcare, etc. “The Brazilian government does in fact already have a youth law in place but simply does not know how to apply it. KIYO and its partners in Rio do everything in their power to ensure the Brazilian government does know how to enforce policies that protect the rights of children.”

Behind the scenes at the World Cup

The Rio City Council is only interested in showing the postcard picture of the city to tourists and investors who have come for the FIFA World Cup. Jan Daniëls, Programme Facilitator at KIYO in Rio: “An invisible wall has been erected. Tourists are only able to visit the football stadiums and the better neighbourhoods. Even though these are, geographically speaking, in the minority. The result is a kind of social apartheid in the city.”

In 2016 the Olympic Games will come to Rio and the social clean-up is unlikely to get any better. On the contrary. KIYO therefore called on the creative agency Famous to apply its creativity to bringing this hidden state of injustice to light. The result is a live stunt that was put into place during the match between Belgium and Russia on 22 June. Behind the big LED screen set up at Lier Stadium for the World Cup, a second LED screen was erected. During the match, while spectators were going crazy for the Red Devils, confronting images were displayed on this screen of the harsh reality: namely the extreme poverty Brazilian children and their families now face as a result of being driven from their homes to make way for the World Cup. The proceedings were subsequently captured on camera, literally and figuratively offering a behind-the-scenes view of the bigger picture behind the World Cup. You can watch the footage here.

You can offer your support for KIYO by donating via or by becoming a volunteer. More info via the campaign website: and on the Facebook pages: (campaign page) and


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Anne-Cécile Collignon Famous
Anne-Cécile Collignon Famous
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