Children as young as 10 are being forced to sell themselves for sex on the streets of Brazil to cash in on the waves of football fans heading to the World Cup.
A Sunday People investigation today reveals how kids living in shocking squalor and high on crack cocaine are exploited by drug dealers and pimps.
And as 600,000 foreign fans including Brits flood into Brazil this week, the youngsters’ plight will get worse.
I flew out last week to host city Recife on the north-east coast to interview children caught up in the vicious cycle of prostitution.
As a former detective and with nearly 30 years of experience in investigating child abuse, including the Jimmy Savile scandal, what I found in Brazil made me shudder.
Thousands of desperate kids…
TOUT for sex for as little as £1.30 after pimps order them to wear clothes and make-up to look older.
PLY their sordid trade within yards of hotels where British fans will stay.
SNIFF from bottles of industrial glue to stop the pangs of hunger.
FEAR for their lives after a 14-year-old prostitute was murdered and her body dumped in the street last month by a man who refused to pay for sex.
This shocking trade of young girls and boys on street corners goes on under the noses of police in the world’s seventh wealthiest economy.
With its enticing beaches next to towering skyscrapers, Recife is the fifth largest city in Brazil and will host five World Cup matches.
England will play there in knockout games if they win their group.
But Recife is rife with drug and child abuse which charity workers say is the same across all cities in the country.
As soon as you arrive at the airport, the taxi drivers waiting to pick you up offer to take you to places to buy drugs or sex.
Children sit around in city centre squares where fans will gather.
This should be a harmless scene of innocence but many of these kids will be offering sex without a second thought.
What immediately struck me is how young these children were. Many had attempted to make themselves look older with clothes and make-up.
Accompanied by a translator and a missionary who works with children on the streets, I spoke to three very young girls, one of whom was clearly not well because of the drugs she was taking and glue she was sniffing.
Lorrisa is only 13 and her frame so tiny that I am sure her growth had been stunted by drugs.
She sniffed from a plastic bottle containing strong industrial glue, which they nickname “cola”, as she explained how she lives.
I held the bottle under my nose to see what it was like and the smell was overpowering, leaving me with a splitting headache.
Lorrisa told me: “Sniffing the glue makes me feel dizzy and numb and it stops me feeling hungry so I don’t need to eat.
“It helps me cope with the violence and danger on the streets.”
I was joined by Lorrisa’s friend Raphaela, 13.
She told me how she gets approached by scores of men looking for sex – locals, tourists and taxi drivers.
They will pay 10 Brazilian real, the equivalent of £2.60.
She recounted a frightening story about her friend Mickela, 14.
She said: “Mickela lived on the street and she was murdered on the day of a police strike .
“A man picked her up by the Metro train station and she had sex with him.
“But afterwards he refused to pay, killed her and dumped her body. It only happened a few weeks ago.”
I was told later by an older prostitute who has taken on a mother role for the children that the police have failed to find the killer.
In the three hours I spent with the children as they openly went about their business, a police car passed twice but officers did nothing.
Pimps come and go alongside drug dealers, safe in the knowledge the police are unable to stem the horror.
Calliem, 14, told me how she first started selling her body for sex at 11.
“I have sex so many times with men and they only pay me five Brazilian real,” she said.
It is the equivalent of £1.30.
Calliem is a regular user of “cola”, cannabis and crack cocaine – acquiring the crack from a regular dealer who visits the streets.
She said: “My dad is dead, my mum lives in a shelter with my aunt and there were nine brothers and sisters.
“Three of them are now dead. One was killed in a shooting.”