The Amazon suffers more from the covid-19 5:08

Sao Paulo . – Away from hospitals and often without basic infrastructure, Brazil’s indigenous people are dying at an alarming rate from covid-19 and with little help in sight.

The death rate is double that of the rest of the Brazilian population, according to the advocacy group Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) that tracks the number of cases and deaths among the country’s 900,000 indigenous people.

APIB has recorded more than 980 officially confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 125 deaths, suggesting a mortality rate of 12.6%, compared to the national rate of 6.4%.

Although the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health of the Ministry of Health has reported only 695 cases of coronavirus in indigenous communities and 34 deaths, they monitor a smaller group of people, only those who live in traditional villages and are registered in local health clinics. , and not the indigenous people who have moved to towns and cities.

Indigenous people who have moved to larger cities or urban areas to study or look for work may end up in precarious living conditions with few public services, increasing their vulnerability to health problems. Meanwhile, those living in remote areas may not have basic sanitation and health services: a 15-year-old Yanomami boy from a remote village in the Amazon was one of the first Brazilian indigenous people to die of covid-19 in April.

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“The coronavirus has taken advantage of years of public neglect,” said Dinaman Tuxa, executive coordinator of APIB and a member of the Tuxa people in northeast Brazil. “Our communities often find themselves in remote and inhospitable regions with no access or infrastructure.”

He said that in the Tuxa community, made up of 1,400 people, there are no hospitals and the closest ICU is four and a half hours away by car. Its main form of prevention has been complete isolation.

“In the face of the pandemic we have not had many options,” he said. “We have completely isolated ourselves. We established barriers. No one is allowed to enter and we try to prevent someone from leaving ”.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases in Tuxa, but he doesn’t know how long they can avoid the virus. More than 60 indigenous communities have confirmed cases of covid-19, many of them in the Amazon region, where people can only get to hospitals by boat or plane.

According to a study by the non-profit organization InfoAmazonia, the average distance between indigenous villages and the closest intensive care unit (ICU) in Brazil is 315 kilometers. And for 10% of the villages that distance is between 700 and 1,079 kilometers.

“Indigenous communities, even those with basic health clinics, simply are not prepared for the coronavirus, which means that infected people must be removed and often travel long distances,” said Joenia Wapichana, the first indigenous congresswoman in Brazil. “And when they get there, they have to compete for hospitals, ICU beds, respirators, because there just aren’t enough.”

The northern and northeastern states have been among the most affected by the coronavirus in Brazil. Most indigenous covid-19 deaths occurred in Amazonas, one of the states with the highest infection rates, where local officials warned in March that the health system was collapsing.

Indigenous rights activists warn that illegal mining and logging on indigenous lands, which have increased since Brazil’s pro-development president Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in last year, now pose an even greater threat to remote communities.

READ: Minister in Brazil suggests that the government take advantage of the pandemic to relax environmental regulations

Deforestation in the Brazilian rain forest increased by almost 64% in April this year, compared to the same month last year, according to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE). Last month alone, more than 400 square kilometers of rain forest was destroyed, a vast swath more than twice the size of Washington.

The first quarter of 2020 had already seen more than a 50% increase in deforestation compared to last year, according to INPE data.

“Indigenous people in the Amazon do not have the antibodies for diseases that come from outside the jungle,” Brazilian activist and photographer Sebastião Salgado told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in a recent interview. “There is a great danger that the coronavirus could enter indigenous territory and become a true genocide.”

READ: What happens if Jair Bolsonaro becomes infected with coronavirus?

Brazil’s Congress last week approved an emergency plan for indigenous communities that would not only provide medical equipment and field hospitals, but also clean water and food supplies that allow tribes to isolate themselves. But it must still be approved by the Senate and obtain the green light from Bolsonaro, who has minimized the virus and has a historically antagonistic relationship with indigenous communities.

“Indigenous peoples cannot always be the last to be treated, the last to receive equipment,” said Wapichana, who is the rapporteur for the plan. “There is not a single field hospital just for indigenous people. They are building them in the wrong places. “

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