Authors: Leonardo Benassato and Amanda Perobelli
BOAVISTA, Brazil (Reuters) – Scenes of dozens of indigenous children hospitalized with malnutrition and acute illness in northern Brazil, with relatives supporting their emaciated bodies in hammocks, underscored the extent of the public health crisis. seriousness.
The state’s only pediatric hospital currently has 59 indigenous children, 45 of whom are from the Yanomami people, the health minister of Boavista, the capital of Roraima state, said Friday. Eight people are in intensive care.
That compares with 703 hospitalizations in all of last year, the secretary said, noting that most children were hospitalized with acute diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, malnutrition, pneumonia and malaria.
Brazil’s government last week declared a medical emergency in the Yanomami region, the country’s largest indigenous reservation, after reports of children dying from malnutrition and other illnesses caused by illegal gold mining.
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Officials have dubbed the crisis a “genocide,” blaming former President Jair Bolsonaro’s government for neglect, with some saying the area now looks like a “concentration camp.”
“Malnutrition is the biggest problem right now,” Boavista Health Minister Regian Matos told Reuters in an interview. “These people have been forgotten in their communities. It has only gotten worse in recent years and what we want now are solutions.”
She said illegal mining in the area had “exacerbated” the crisis, seriously polluting the region’s vital waterways, from which the Yanomami get their water and food.
The reservation has been invaded by illegal miners for decades, but the incursions have multiplied after Bolsonaro took office in 2018 promising to allow mining on the previously protected land.
At the Boa Vista Pediatric Hospital, Reuters witnessed several indigenous children so thin that their ribs were visible.
Their parents cried out for help.
“A lot of people are sick and have no food!” said Marcelo Yanomami, the father of a hospitalized child. “Many of our relatives died. Many Yanomami died.”
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited the region last week. The Brazilian air force opened a field hospital in Boa Vista on Friday, providing medical care to some 700 Yanomami people, as well as flights delivering food in the area.
(Reporting by Leonardo Benassatto and Amanda Perobelli; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Brad Haynes and Sandra Maler)
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