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Tech to Protect Brazilian Kids

Brazil is now the world's seventh wealthiest economy. But many children remain vulnerable...some are homeless and live in streets, others fall victim of abuse. Staff members of the United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF are using modern tools to protect children from danger. NHK WORLD's Widad Franco reports.

Brazil is a young country. About one third of the population is under 18 years old. And nearly 40 percent of them live in poverty. They are the most affected by social inequalities.

Authorities say every hour 14 cases of child abuse are reported. And they say many children simply disappear.

Some of the lucky ones are brought to hospitals. Many have been abandoned and others have been neglected by their parents.

"In most cases, abuse happens within the family and the abuser is someone close to children."
Maria de Moura Marquez / Counselor, Brasilia Maternal Children Hospital

This mother and her two daughters were separated from their father. She says she's too poor and too depressed to raise her children. So, now a child welfare institution has stepped in to help them.

"I did not have any strength. I knew I had obligations for my kids but I could not do anything."
Gisele Pereira

Officials with UNICEF Brazil have launched a new initiative to protect children. They're using a mobile phone app to try and reach 60 million mobile users across the country.

To address the issue of child abuse, UNICEF and partners created this free app.

When people see a child in danger, the app helps users identify the type of abuse, such as child labor or discrimination and makes it simple for them to find the nearest child protection facility or to make a direct call.

"So far we have more than 3,000 calls to the child protection institutions in Brazil, so people took action during the campaign so we are proud of the results."
Estella Caparelli / UNICEF communications officer

They're also working with children in the many urban slums here. Many live in substandard housing and poor sanitary conditions.

"Now UNICEF is helping the children of this area with this kite."
Widad Franco

Kite-flying is popular with local children. UNICEF staff and children attach a digital camera onto a kite then fly it. They get a bird-eye view of the area.

They can then compose a map using the images they captured. They identify which areas need improvement.

And their findings are reported to local authorities. They've helped to turn an area once full of trash and debris into a playground.

"It's my legacy, that the community is better today, it's much cleaner!"
Bruno Silva / Project participant

"If we invite young people to use their energy and their ability to make changes they do and they wanna do and they want and need this kind of opportunity."
Luciana Phebo / UNICEF Field Office Chief

UNICEF officials are using innovative thinking in their latest push to help children grow up safer.

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