COVID-19 is leaving thousands of infected and dead in native American communities, with a special emphasis on the South American Amazon region.
The pandemic of COVID-19 it is attacking in a very violent way the indigenous communities of America, populations that, in many cases, live in the oblivion of their leaders, with little support from social protection systems and outside the health services.
The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is leaving thousands of infected and dead in the native communities of the continent, with a special emphasis on Amazon region South American, where the health network of countries like Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru It is already collapsing due to the high number of patients, many of them from native towns, who are arriving at their facilities.
Twenty thousand cases among Amazonian indigenous people
The director of the Pan American Health Organization (OPS), Carissa Etienne, assured on May 19 that the cases of COVID-19 in the basin of Amazon they already amount to 20,000, “where the impact tends to be twice as high”, given the prevailing underreporting in the entire area.
“These groups live so long in villages isolated with minimal access to health services as in highly populated cities like Manaus (Brazil), Iquitos (Peru) or Leticia (Colombia), “added Etienne, who remarked that” if these communities do not act immediately, they will suffer a disproportionate impact. “
Part of this “disproportionate impact” is already being experienced in the Brazilian Amazon. According to the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), until last Tuesday there were 145 suspected cases, 435 confirmed and 91 deaths of indigenous people by COVID-19 in the territories of Mãe Maria and Trocará (Pará state), Alto Rio Negro and Medio Rio Negro (Amazonas) and Tabalascada (Roraima).
In Amazonas there are only intensive care (ICU) in Manaus, where the health crisis has exposed the hospital deficiency region of. “We are living this war with much difficulty and pain” and “we are losing many warriors,” leader Eladio Kokama told EFE from his village in Tabatinga, four days’ journey from Manaus.
Kokama lost his cousin a few days ago to coronavirus and now it is his brother who is infected and “intubated in the Tabatinga military hospital ”. “Our country does not have decent health for all citizens, whether they are Indians or not” and “our region is very forgotten,” he regrets.
The Colombian Amazon is one of the regions of the South American country with the most incidence of COVID-19, and there it has already infected 1,775 people and killed (officially) 73, with the department of Amazonas (on the border with Brazil and Peru) being the most affected with 1,221 confirmed cases and 45 deaths.
For the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) the incidence of infections may be worse, since it estimates that it could be more than 5,900 cases only in the Amazon Trapezium region, where at the beginning of the pandemic there were no ICU beds and there were hardly two mechanical ventilators for a population of 48 thousand 144 inhabitants.
Indigenous communities, with a population of 1,905,617 inhabitants, represent 4.4 percent of the total in Colombia and are spread across all regions of the country. By pandemic they barricaded themselves in their safeguards to restrict the entry of people outside their environment and avoid infection.
The indigenous peoples in danger in Ecuador
The case of contagion of a pregnant woman from the Waorani ethnic group put human rights defenders on alert indigenous people in Ecuador, who requested precautionary measures to protect the Quichua, Achuar, Siecopae, Waorani and Shuar indigenous nationalities, including 73 people with COVID-19.
Andrés Tapia, leader of the Amazonian peoples, assured EFE that there are several cases with suspected disease and “there are at least eight deceased: five confirmed by coronavirus (…) in the provinces of Napo and Pastaza, and at least three with symptoms”, including a grandfather of the Waorani nationality and two of the Siecopai nationality.
The gradual reopening of some cantons of the Ecuadorian Amazon to economic activity represents a major concern for groups indigenous defenders for the lack of coordination of the Ecuadorian Government.
The Q’om, victims of COVID-19 and discrimination
The Great Toba de Resistencia neighborhood, capital of the Chaco province (northeast), is a “red dot” of the pandemic for indigenous Argentines. The neighborhood is fully populated by members of the community Q’om and it is being strongly impacted by the coronavirus.
One of the referents of the Resistance Q’om, Roberto Fernández, tells Efe that 112 people contracted the SARS-CoV-2 in the neighborhood, and 9 of them died, in the midst of a complex situation in which young people they find it difficult to accept the recommendations for social isolation.
“People do not want to go to the hospital because we are discriminated against. The bus (collective) does not lift passengers from the community and the police do not want to enter for fear of catching it. We are worried and scared, ”said Fernández.
The Mexican indigenous population urges attention
In Mexico, a country in which 21.5 percent of the population (25.6 million people) defines themselves as indigenous, 899 positive cases have been identified so far among the 68 officially recognized native populations, with 157 deaths. Most of the contagions among the indigenous population were located in the states of Yucatan (166), Mexico City (129), Mexico state (73) and Oaxaca (69).
A week ago, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center He noted that the crisis caused by COVID-19 presented significant challenges in terms of care for indigenous peoples throughout the country.
These “can be prevented and overcome if the Mexican State adopts better actions directed at this population in matters of health, economy, food, water, sanitation, without prejudice to their self-determination and autonomy“
Bolivian indigenous territories on alert
In the absence of official data on the number of indigenous people killed or infected in Bolivia, the Center for Legal Studies and Social Research (Cejis) has warned that 38 indigenous territories in the Amazon northeast, the east and south of the country are in danger due to the presence of the pathogen in 14 municipalities near them.
The official information on the disease in the country is not disaggregated according to population sectors, but some specific cases were known, such as that of the indigenous Martial Fabricano, leader of an emblematic Amazonian peoples’ march to La Paz in 1990, and which recovered from COVID-19.
With information from EFE