A medical emergency has been declared in Yanomami territory following reports of children dying of malnutrition and other diseases.
In Brazil, the ministry of health has declared a medical emergency in the Yanomami territory, which is Brazil’s largest indigenous reservation. It borders Venezuela. There have been reports that children are dying in huge numbers due to malnutrition and other diseases. The main reason for such diseases is believed to be caused by illegal gold mining.
The Yanomami people are an indigenous group that lives in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and Venezuela. They have a traditional way of life that includes hunting and gathering as well as complex social and religious systems. They have been facing pressure from outside forces in recent years, including illegal mining, land development, and illegal logging.
These activities have caused significant harm to the Yanomami communities and their way of life and have also threatened their health. Despite these challenges, the Yanomami people continue to struggle to protect their rights, culture, and territory.
They live in the largest indigenous area in Brazil, which borders Venezuela. This area has more than 9 million hectares and a population of around 30,000. It is also situated on the northern border of the Amazon Forest.
It was only in recent years that experts began to warn about the humanitarian and sanitary crisis taking shape in the Yanomami region. In the report published by a non-profit Socio-Economic institute, it was pointed out that in 2021, this region alone would have 50% of the malaria cases in the country and that more than 3,000 children would be malnourished.
The root cause of all this is the illegal mining faced by the Yanomami people. According to the activists, Yanomami people have to constantly face death threats, alcohol and sexual violence, and drug abuse by the miners, which is especially prevalent against children. Nearly 40 illegal airstrips were built by miners, and some government healthcare facilities were also forcibly occupied by them.
According to an expert from the non-profit organization, the mining activity changes the soil structure, which creates puddles favorable for the mosquitoes to grow in. During the last four years of Bolsonaro’s presidency, 570 Yanomami children died of curable diseases, mainly malnutrition but also malaria, diarrhea, and malformations caused by mercury used by wildcat gold miners, as reported by Amazon journalism platform Sumauma.
The incoming government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva published a decree on Friday. It aimed to restore health services to the Yanomami people, whom he says had been dismantled by his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.
A few photos were published that showcased Yanomami, showing children and elderly men and women so thin their ribs were visible. This prompted a visit from Lula to a Yanomami health center in Boa Vista, Roraima State, on Saturday.
He later stated on Twitter that what he witnessed in Roraima was not a humanitarian crisis, but rather premeditated genocide against the indigenous people. This was committed by a government that was insensitive to suffering.
The Yanomami reservation has always been invaded by illegal gold miners. But this has increased a lot since Bolsonaro won office in 2018. He promised to legalize wildcat mining and mining on protected lands. There were signs that even organized crime has become involved, as in some recent violent incidents, automatic weapons were used against the indigenous villagers.
Wildcat mining here refers to illegal operations that are often carried out by individuals or small groups and can include activities such as illegal gold mining. Wildcat mining can cause significant environmental damage as well as social and economic problems for local communities. Due to the lack of regulation and oversight, wildcat miners often use dangerous and toxic chemicals and may not follow proper safety procedures.
The Lula government has promised that it will end illegal mining as it cracks down on illegal deforestation in the Amazon.