From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Sun Mar 26 08:37:19 2000
Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2000 23:11:44 -0600 (CST)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: DEVELOPMENT: Italian Aid Targets Residents of Brazil's Slums
Article: 92077
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Italian Aid Targets Residents of Brazil's Slums

By Jorge Pia, IPS, 23 March 2000

ROME, Mar 23 (IPS)—The international co-operation division of Italy's Foreign Ministry assisted three poverty-stricken neighbourhoods in Brazil to obtain legal status because they do not even appear on the city maps of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais state, located in the southeast of this Latin American country.

The residents of these neighbourhoods, known as ‘favelas&217; in Brazil, already face serious economic and social challenges in addition to the fact that they were not legally registered, meaning they did not have the right to vote or participate in other civil activities.

The Italian aid was channeled to the people in Belo Horizonte through a project that has been underway since 1994 and is to conclude this year, an effort of the Foreign Ministry's international co-operation fund that earmarked five million dollars for development in Brazil.

The balance of what has been implemented so far is more than positive, Paola Viero, one of the Italian project's leaders, told IPS.

The plan, known as Alborada (Daybreak), allowed some 50,000 favela inhabitants in three areas of the Belo Horizonte metropolitan area to improve their standard of living by re-integrating them into the city's urban and social fabric.

The total cost of the programme—approximately 10 million dollars—has also been funded with donations from the European Union and the Brazilian government.

The project legalised 7,000 plots of land, granting the local people property rights and giving priority to the situation of women and children. It also led to the installation of sewage, clean water and electrical systems in the favelas.

Viero emphasised the participation of the project's beneficiaries in choosing development plans, building the various infrastructure systems, and creating social services, turning local residents into actors in the process of improving their own living conditions.

Neighbourhood institutions were also granted jurisdiction over planning, working methods and appropriate tools for controlling the development of the favelas.

This Italian aid project took into account the special situation of the children, who are the most affected by the poverty of the favelas, characterised by high unemployment, inadequate incomes and disintegrating families—80 percent of which are headed by single women.

All of this has serious repercussions on minors, who often face abandonment, crime and violence, which then feeds the phenomenon of street children and their exploitation in all forms, Viero pointed out.

There has been insufficient access to education because there were not enough schools or teachers, which, for adolescents, means one more factor in their exclusion from the labour market, perpetuating a vicious cycle of poverty from one generation to the next, she added.

It is enough to consider that more than 80 percent of the favela children demonstrate a three or four year lag in normal educational development, said the Italian expert, adding that barely 20 percent of the neighbourhoods' minors go on to secondary school.

To confront this dire situation, the project first targeted children under age six by building schools to be run by community associations.

For the seven to 13 age group, the assistance project invested in expanding schools to allow the children to take part in more school-related, cultural or recreational activities.

With support from several businesses, adolescents age 14 to 18 benefit from vocational training courses that meet the demands of the local labour market.

This allowed the creation of employment search services, eliminating the lack of job information that had generally been a fundamental reason behind local residents' social exclusion.

Under the Italian aid programme, four schools were built and three are already in use, while training and economic support is going into more educational centres, ultimately benefiting some 1,200 girls and boys.

A total of 200 adolescents completed primary school and received vocational training under the programme so far. More than 70 percent had already found stable work within three months of finishing training. This number is expected to double, reaching 400 by the time the project concludes.

Health centres have also been erected in the favelas and some 50 community health workers trained to provide services to local residents.

The support given to children and adolescents through school should prevent more of them from becoming street children or falling victim to child labour, said Viero.

This Italian-Brazilian experience demonstrates that children can grow, receive an education and reach adulthood even in a high-risk context, she concluded.