Last updated on March 31, 2020
“The Whites cannot destroy our house for, if they do, things will not end well for the whole world. We are looking after the forest for everyone, not just for the Yanomami and the isolated peoples. We work with our shamans who understand these things well, who possess wisdom that comes from contact with the land.” Davi Kopenawa
Monga Bay reports on the First possible COVID-19 indigenous cases detected near key Amazon reserve. The Javari Valley Indigenous Territory is home to the largest concentration of uncontacted people on Earth. The sanctuary is threatened by logging, mining, and agricultural interests due to the genocidal policies of Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, commonly referred to as the Trump of the Tropics. It was Bolsonaro who set the Amazon rainforest aflame, enraging the global community. Preserving the rainforest is critical in our ability to fight climate change. The Amazon is now an active climate tipping point and, is projected to collapse within fifty years.
A Marubo indigenous man in Atalaia do Norte, Brazil, has shown signs of coronavirus infection after coming in contact with a group of North Americans in Atalaia do Norte, the capital of a municipal district located on the border between Brazil, Peru and Colombia. The man was working as a tourist guide, and, according to Amazônia Real, visited a hospital feeling ill on Friday, 20 March.
So far, according to municipal health authorities, the man hasn’t been hospitalized, but he has been told to isolate himself in a house he shares with 14 other indigenous people. Two of his daughters, aged 9 and 12, have a fever, cough and aches, commonly seen COVID-19 symptoms. The local health system lacks capacity for testing, so samples have been sent to Manaus, 1,138 kilometers (707 miles) away.
But the family is unlikely to learn their test results any time soon. Atalaia do Norte has no road contact with the rest of Brazil. It takes up to three days to travel to Manaus by boat, and planes, which can fly to Manaus in three hours, are currently grounded as part of the strategy to halt the pandemic’s spread. Latest reports suggest that health authorities have managed to send the samples but haven’t received test results as yet.
If coronavirus does expand into remote indigenous Amazon villages, it couldn’t happen at a worse time. Brazil’s health service — greatly weakened by the Bolsonaro administration — will very likely find it nearly impossible to cope.
The indigenous health service is run by the Special Indigenous Health Sanitary Districts (DISEI), linked to the Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health (SESAI), part of the Health Ministry. According to Antenor Vaz, a former FUNAI employee and a consultant on indigenous people, this service was operating well until late 2018, largely thanks to Mais Médicos (More Doctors), a health program that brought hundreds of Cuban doctors into remote parts of Brazil.
Of the 372 doctors working within indigenous communities at the time, 301 were Cuban. “It was one of the few times that there were doctors in most indigenous territories, even if they weren’t there the whole time,” said Vaz. But just before taking office in December 2018, Bolsonaro, who had earlier criticized the fact that Cuban doctors were working in Brazil, insisted on changes in the program that the Cuban government found unacceptable. So, after some heated exchanges, the Cuba recalled its doctors. “With the departure of the Cuban doctors, the whole service has been badly damaged,” said Vaz.
Dom Phillips writes in the Guardian on the US-based missionary organization Ethnos360 P/K/A New Tribes Mission. The group is a deadly threat to Indigenous people the world over by introducing disease to people that have no resistance.
A radical group of evangelical Christian missionaries set on converting every last tribe on Earth has raised fears that deadly diseases – and even the coronavirus – will spread in the Brazilian Amazon. The group has based its newly bought helicopter right beside a reserve with the world’s highest concentration of isolated indigenous groups, who have little resistance to common illnesses.
There are more than 100 isolated indigenous groups in Brazil, all highly vulnerable to common diseases such as measles and flu, and 16 of them live in the same reserve in the Javari Valley, a vast, remote area the size of Austria. Covid-19 could wipe out any of them.
Mol cited the case of American missionary John Chau, killed by a tribe of hunter-gatherers last year after he landed on North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean to illustrate the risks New Tribes present to the region.
“He literally accepted killing some of them with the excuse of bringing them God’s word. That’s literally how these people think,” Mol said.
Evangelical Christians have extended their influence in Brazil under the country’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who increasingly relies on their support and has a history of racist remarks about indigenous people, calling those living on protected reserves “prehistoric”.
“The route is being prepared,” Rodrigues said. “They are ready to invade these territories and do these contacts. New Tribes’ mission is clear.”
Video by the despicable Ethnos360 religious cult.
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