Brazil declares health emergency for Yanomami Yahoo News

Brazil declares health emergency for Yanomami

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited the northern Brazilian state of Roraima on Saturday after the government declared a public health emergency for the Yanomami people in the Amazon, who are suffering from malnutrition and diseases such as malaria as a result of the illegal mining.

In the state capital, Boa Vista, Lula said the treatment of the Yanomami was inhumane. The immediate measures to be taken by the government are to improve transportation and hire more doctors and nurses to work in the area, he said.

The decree, signed by Health Minister Nisia Trindade late Friday, has no expiration date and allows for additional staff to be hired. It stipulates that the responsible team must publish reports on the health and general well-being of the indigenous group.

Lula also created a multi-ministerial committee to be coordinated by his chief of staff for an initial 90-day period. The government team went to Boa Vista as many sick Yanomami were admitted to specialized hospitals there.

The Yanomami live in Brazil’s largest indigenous territory, covering more than 9 million hectares and a population of around 30,000 in the northern reaches of the Amazon rainforest near the border with Venezuela.

In recent years, specialists had sounded the alarm as a humanitarian and sanitary crisis loomed. The Yanomami Under Attack report, authored by the nonprofit Socio-Environmental Institute, indicates that the region was responsible for 50% of the country’s malaria cases in 2021. According to the same report, more than 3,000 children were malnourished.

Illegal mining is the main cause of the Yanomami’s problems. Activists accuse miners of death threats, sexual violence, and alcohol and drug abuse, particularly against tribal children. The same report shows that more than 40 illegal airstrips were built by miners in the region and that they had taken over some of the state health centers set up in the region.

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“Mining activity changes the soil, creating puddles that are favorable for the malarial mosquito and other diseases as well. Many miners also bring diseases with them. It is a health and humanitarian crisis,” said Estêvão Benfica, a geographer and one of the researchers at the Socio-Environment Institute.

Benfica also said it lacks the human and basic resources to detect malaria in its early stages, making the situation worse. The high rate of disease prevents the Yanomami from working on their land and creates a large community that cannot economically support itself.

Another factor was the political approach during the years of former President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, when health workers dwindled and four health stations were closed, leaving hundreds of Yanomami without medical care.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Health had already designated a team for a special health mission in the Yanomami region. Lula planned an emergency trip to Roraima state after independent local news website Sumauma published shocking images of malnourished children.

According to the report, under-five deaths have increased by 29% over the past four years of the Bolsonaro administration compared to the previous administration. The same report shows that between 2019 and 2022, 570 Yanomami children died from curable diseases.