January 20 2011

Brazil crisis: SOS Children's Villages puts safety for children first

20/01/2011 - As one of the worst disasters in Brazilian history continues unabated, SOS Children's Villages is working hard to bring unaccompanied children and adolescents to safety.

Photo: SOS Archives
SOS co-worker is shocked by the magnitude of destruction - Photo: SOS Archives

Heavy rains that led to massive floods and landslides have caused unprecedented destruction and tragedy in the mountainous areas of the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. According to the latest media reports, the six most affected towns of Nova Friburgo, Teresopolis, Petropolis, Sao Jose do Vale do Rio Preto, Sumidouro and Bom Jardin have reported a total of over 700 casualties with many more missing and several thousand people displaced or homeless.

A team of SOS co-workers that was sent to the affected areas to assess the situation has decided to begin emergency relief efforts mainly for children without parental care particularly in the town of Nova Friburgo.

Photo: SOS Archives
Photo: SOS Archives

After contacting and establishing partnerships with local government authorities, army representatives and local NGOs, SOS Children's Villages has begun working on two of the most pressing priorities. First, children who have lost their families in the ongoing disaster or who have been separated from their families with no knowledge of their whereabouts must be identified and registered as soon as possible in cooperation with local authorities. Second, those children who have nobody to take care of them, even if only temporarily, must be provided with basic necessities, such as food, medical and psychological support, and a safe place to stay.

Photo: Joris Lugtigheid
SOS Children's Villages Brazil is supporting some 8,400 children and their familieis through alternative care, education and health services - Photo: Joris Lugtigheid
Government authorities have already declared SOS Children's Villages the designated temporary caretakers of children without parental care, and members of the SOS emergency team are currently searching for unaccompanied children in more than two dozen facilities that shelter displaced persons. A local NGO has put its facilities, a nursery and a kindergarten, at the disposal of SOS Children's Villages. Four children whose family refused to leave the threatened areas are already being cared for there. Since this arrangement is only temporary, another NGO has offered to finance the rental of facilities for a period of at least six months.

While the disaster is already being called one of the worst in Brazilian history, weather forecasts predict more rain yet to come over the next days and weeks.