Brasilia – The Brazilian government has declared a public health emergency for the Yanomami people of the Amazon region, who suffer from malnutrition and diseases such as malaria as a result of illegal mining.
The decree, signed by Health Minister Nisia Trindade late on Friday, has no expiration date and allows additional staff to be hired. It was decided that the responsible team must issue a report on the health and general well-being of the Indigneous group.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also established a multi-ministerial committee, coordinated by his chief of staff, for an initial period of 90 days. He was heading to Boavista, the capital of Roraima state, where many sick Yanomami have been taken to specialized hospitals.
The Yanomami are Brazil’s largest indigenous group, with a population of about 30,000, living in the northern region of the Amazon rainforest, close to the border with Venezuela, covering more than 9 million hectares (22 million acres).
In recent years, experts have sounded the alarm about the unfolding humanitarian and health crisis. The report, “Yanomami Under Attack,” written by the nonprofit Socio-Environmental Research Institute, states that by 2021, the region will account for 50 percent of the country’s malaria cases. The same report stated that more than 3,000 children were malnourished.
Illegal mining is a major source of problems faced by the Yanomami. Activists have accused the miners of death threats, sexual violence and alcohol and drug use, especially against Aboriginal children. The same report revealed that there are more than 40 illegal airstrips in the area built by miners who have also taken over some government medical centers installed in the area.
Earlier this week, the Ministry of Health had designated a team to carry out a special sanitation mission in the Yanomami region. Lula arranged an emergency trip to Roraima state after a report by local independent news site Sumauma published shocking photos of malnourished children.
During the last four years of former President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, the under-five mortality rate rose by 29 percent compared with the previous administration, according to reports. According to the same report, 570 Yanomami children will die from curable diseases between 2019 and 2022.
Lula tweeted that the government had received information about a “ridiculous situation” about malnutrition among Yanomami children. The president will be accompanied by several of his ministers to Boavista.
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