The coronavirus pandemic has penetrated various indigenous communities in Latin America and has caused the death of hundreds of people, highlighting the existing inequalities in this region. “Pandemics affect different population groups differently, exacerbating existing inequalities in society. Without a doubt, these sectors include indigenous peoples, ”warned the FILAC Board of Directors last March. According to this institution, in Latin America, the indigenous population exceeds 45 million people, just under 10% of the region’s total population. Up to 826 different communities have been registered in this scenario, of which around 100 are cross-border.
Brazil is the country where the most indigenous peoples live (305), followed by Colombia (102), Peru (85) and Mexico (78). At the other extreme are Costa Rica and Panama, with 8 and 9 indigenous peoples each, El Salvador (3) and Uruguay (2). This multicultural reality is marked by the extreme vulnerability that plagues the thousands of people who live in these areas; a vulnerability that manifests itself mainly through high rates of malnutrition, difficulty in accessing health services or precarious infrastructure. Added to this is now the threat of COVID-19, which affects several communities in the region, and which could decimate the indigenous population of the continent, as warned by the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) group. , who has also accused the Government of Jair Bolsonaro of “not having done anything” to contain the spread of this disease in areas where up to 750,000 indigenous people live.
“The spread of COVID-19 has exacerbated and will continue to exacerbate an already critical situation for many indigenous peoples: a situation in which inequalities and discrimination already abound. Increasing recessions nationwide and the real possibility of a global depression will further aggravate the situation, causing fear that many indigenous people will die, not only from the virus itself, but also from conflict and violence linked to the scarcity of resources, and in particular drinking water and food, ”as indicated by the UN Expert Mechanism.
In this scenario, the Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean (FILAC) together with the Abya Yala Indigenous Forum (FIAY) and indigenous organizations in the region, among other actions, created the Regional Indigenous Platform in Front of COVID-19 called ‘For life and for the Peoples’. This platform aims to promote the exchange of information, analysis and coordination to enhance dialogue with governments and promote appropriate responses to mitigate the impact of this pandemic on the indigenous peoples of the continent.
In the Amazon, a report by the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), has denounced the situation experienced by indigenous peoples in a migratory situation and has announced the increase in cases in some of the nine countries that make up the basin (Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname).
According to the latest report prepared by FILAC, at the beginning of June 2020, at least 7,246 indigenous people have been infected by coronaviruses, of which 847 have died. In total, around 163 towns in ten countries have been affected by the pandemic . In Belize, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Uruguay, people infected with this pathogen have not been registered in indigenous communities in recent weeks.
“Beyond the numbers, this report highlights the gravity of the situation for the communities. Many of them are at high risk, even of disappearing, ”said FILAC President Myrna Cunningham during the presentation of this report.