Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state in Brazil, is a magnet to indigenous people from across the Amazon basin in search of a better life than they find in their homelands. Instead of success and life in a plush apartment many find destitution and poverty.
Manaus is in northern Brazil and has around 1.8 million inhabitants. It is a financial, commercial and economic centre and has a major tourism trade for the world famous Amazon basin and the huge diversity of indigenous peoples that live there.
Wide social inequality
Many indigenous people find their way there in the hope of a better, cosmopolitan life outside of the jungle. Many don't and end up in makeshift favelas. Only 17% of homes in the city have sewerage systems, which shows how far development must go before the gross social inequality of the region is dealt with.
AIDS is becoming a major problem in the city. In 1994 the incidence was 3.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, but had quadrupled to 15.7 cases per hundred thousand by 2004. This rate has increased since, and education on the issue is urgently needed to tackle the disease.
Drug smuggling affects young people
Amazonas is a major highway for drug smuggling, and Manaus is a stopover on the various drug routes. This has led to a major increase in violence and homicide - the murder rate increased by 9% in 2011, 70% of which was linked to drug trafficking.
Cocaine use has become increasingly popular among young people in Manaus, with the concurrent effects of physical and social decline of individuals and groups alike. Young people are drawn in by the easy money and slip into using it themselves.
What we do for the children of Manaus
We set up the SOS Children's Village in Manaus in 1994 and have been working with the community on a range of projects ever since. We offer family strengthening programmes to try to keep children cared for by their parents, but also look after children should they be unable to live with their families.
Reaching across the local community, our social centre has a day care centre and child-minding programme which looks after up to 1,200 children, enabling their parents to go to work to pay for the costs incurred in looking after their families. We also provide support and training to over 1,500 adults, helping them climb out of the worst privations of poverty. In learning new skills so they can earn their way out of the social problems they face.
For children unable to live with their families any more, they can live in an SOS family who provide a loving home to them. Children live with their brothers and sisters and are cared for by their SOS Mother while attending school in the local community. This ensures they can forge links with their community that remain throughout their lives.
As the children grow up they need more independence, so we run an SOS youth programme which offers shared, supported housing while they pursue further education or vocational training. They are given guidance in making the right decisions as adults by qualified youth counsellors.