Indigenous fears of high Covid-19 deaths in border areas of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru

Indigenous fears of high Covid-19 deaths in border areas of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru

Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Fears are increasing in the tri-border area between Brazil, Colombia, and Peru that indigenous communities face a high death toll. This relates to the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.

At the same time, the lack of health care facilities, poverty, and the remoteness of the Amazon are setting off alarm bells. Hence, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is notifying national governments and the international community about the spread of coronavirus to this region.

Indeed, before the coronavirus began to spread many indigenous pleaded for outsiders to keep out. The Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon declared, “We are demanding the immediate removal of all intruders, miners, loggers, poachers, drug traffickers, land grabbers, missionaries, and tourists who can be vectors of transmission.”

In Manaus, Brazil, reports stress that many indigenous people in remote areas are dying before reaching this city. Family members seeking help for loved ones are dying on the way. Therefore, this perennial problem is magnified to other areas of the Amazon in the tri-border area.

Reuters reports, Three-quarters of the 540 confirmed cases of coronavirus among 40 tribes reported by APIB are in the Amazon where the pandemic has hit Manaus so badly that it was the first Brazilian city to run out of ICU beds, while its main cemetery buries the dead in collective graves.”

The Mayor of Manaus, Arthur Virgílio, noted that daily burials only reach high numbers like 35 a day on special tragic occasions. However, in recent times the norm is roughly 130 being buried a day.

The BBC reports, “The Amazonian cities of Manaus in Brazil, Iquitos in Peru, and Leticia in Colombia have already been badly affected by Covid-19, which health experts say is now threatening to reach more remote regions.”

Hence, with coronavirus hitting the cities of Iquitos, Leticia, and Manaus, the spread from these areas is raising alarm bells. This is based on isolated indigenous communities throughout the rainforest already facing serious health and poverty issues. Therefore, the coronavirus crisis will exacerbate an already difficult existence with new deadly outbreaks.

Equally important, the lack of health care, different immune systems, linguistic issues, cultural differences, and other factors, looks set to overwhelm many remote communities. Therefore, the PAHO is raising alarm bells to support isolated communities throughout the vast tri-border region.

However, with many health care workers being responsible for spreading the coronavirus unintentionally in America and Europe – and in care homes – then all outside support networks must test people before entering these remote areas. Otherwise, another unintentional tragedy will emerge. Hence, the needs and concerns of the indigenous must be met based on the delicate nature of the situation.


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