Montevideo | Abandoned by governments and potentially more fragile for lack of immune defenses adequate, the indigenous communities of Latin America are being decimated by the pandemic of novel coronavirus.
The announcement of the death last week of the cacique brazilian Paulinho Paiakan, one of the most ardent defenders of the amazonian forest, after to have been contaminated by the Covid-19, has put a face on this phenomenon.
Many native peoples are affected among the 420 who live in the amazon basin. This vast region, which is crossed by the Amazon river and its tributaries, is a horse in nine countries.
The death of Paulinho Paiakan in a hospital in Redencao is in addition to nearly 300 deaths that have cast a shadow over 100 communities in Brazil, according to the APIB (Association of indigenous peoples of this country, five times more deaths than in 2019.
The APIB has accused the government of president of extreme right-wing Jair Bolsonaro of not having “done nothing” to contain the spread of the virus in the villages, which are home to 750 000 aboriginal people, including nearly 5,500 have been contaminated by the Covid-19.
“If he had adopted preventive measures from the beginning, we would have avoided so many deaths,” says the coordinator of this organization, Sonia Guajajara, in a podcast of the NGO Institute of socio-environmental (ISA).
The photographer franco-brazilian Sebastiao Salgado, has described as “genocide” the lack of reaction from the State, while the cacique Raoni, door-to-speech iconic indigenous to the Amazon, accusing the president Bolsonaro to “take advantage” of the pandemic in order to eliminate his people.
The natives have lived for centuries under the threat of infectious diseases. It is estimated that their population in south America fell by a quarter between 1492 and 1650, due to the sudden introduction of bacteria and viruses, transmitted by the european colonizers.
These diseases have wreaked havoc among the inhabitants of the “New world” that had never been exposed to it and thus had developed no immunity against them.
The pan american health Organization (PAHO) ahead of the figure of at least 20 000 indigenous infected.
“These groups live in remote villages with minimum access to health services in cities densely populated areas, such as Manaus (Brazil), Iquitos (Peru) or Leticia (Colombia) “, explains the director of the OPS Clarissa Etienne.
At the border between Brazil and Venezuela are the lands of the Yanomami, where operate about 20 000 gold miners, according to the NGO Survival International. This people, who feared that these comings and goings will only contribute to spreading the virus, requires the expulsion of these gold-seekers was illegal.
According to a study from the federal university of Minas Gerais (UFMG), in the absence of measures, 40% of the Yanomami living close to the areas of orpaillage (almost 14 000) could contract the coronavirus.
In the brazilian State of Acre, on the border with Peru, are situated on 15 000 indigenous Huni kui divided into 104 villages. The virus has already been five deaths.
The loss of the wise
With a headdress of feathers, a necklace of canine teeth on his upper torso and a surgical mask, Remberto Cahuamari, head of the community ticuna, in the colombian department of Amazonas, is concerned that the disappearance of ” old “, because of the Covid-19, do not endanger the transmission of knowledge.
“If they were to all die out, we would stay with our young people who, in the future, might ignore all of our culture, of our traditions and customs. This is what we fear “, he told AFP.
A man with the face covered by a surgical mask and a face shield of transparent plastic and armed with a stick, monitors, stoic, access to this village. We can’t do it in the dugout by the Tucushira, one of more than a thousand tributaries of the Amazon.
Located at the southern tip of the British, this region at the crossroads of three countries, poor and depopulated, has a rate of 320 cases of Covid-19 per 10,000 inhabitants, which is the worst in the country, and 954 deaths per million people, compared with 33 per million, the national average.
The national indigenous Organization of Colombia, in which 33 people affected by the pandemic, denounced the “extinction risk” for some.
This vast area is not connected by road with the rest of the country and there is only one public hospital, but without an intensive care unit.
Because of the disinterest of the State, malnutrition and poverty, “when the Covid-19 arrives, our defenses (immune) are flat,” explains the AFP Armando Wooriyu, responsible for the IEANPE, the organization responsible for making the link with the indigenous peoples, in the framework of the implementation of the peace agreement in Colombia.
To confront the pandemic, some communities are displaced in areas even more remote, others have blocked the access to their village and have turned to traditional medicine, ” he says.
The situation is the same in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, where in the region of Loreto, in the jungle of peru, nearly 1 500 indigenous Achuar, Awajun, Cocama, Shipibo, and Ticunas are infected, of which at least 14 are dead, according to authorities.