UNCONTACTED and isolated Amazon tribes face being “wiped out” by the mutant Brazilian Covid strain as the government has been accused of genocide by campaigners.
Activists claim invading loggers, miners and landgrabbers are spreading coronavirus to the sprawling rainforest’s indigenous people, who have little immunity to most diseases, with the virus killing ten children recently in one village.
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The uncontacted Awá in the Brazilian Amazon use the resin of the maçaranduba tree to make fire to light houses and to hunt at night
A nurse takes the temperature of a Covid-19 patient member of the Witoto indigenous tribe at a hospital set up near Manaus, BrazilCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Loggers and land-grabbers are said to be spreading CovidCredit: Reuters
Sarah Shenker, from tribe conservation charity Survival International, told The Sun Online: “Where invaders are present, coronavirus could wipe out whole peoples. It’s a matter of life and death.”
The Coordinating Body for Indigenous Organizations in the Brazilian Amazon (APIB), says death rate among the tribes is a staggering 58 per cent higher than the general population.
And meanwhile, the infection rate is 68 per cent higher.
So far more than 970 have been reported to have died from the virus, but it is feared this could be tip of the iceberg.
And the new more spreadable Brazilian variant threatens to rip through the remote and uncontacted tribes.
One tribe – the Juma – has even seen their last indigenous man killed by the virus, leaving his three daughters as last surviving members of the people who once numbered up to 15,000.
Where invaders are present, coronavirus could wipe out whole peoples
Sarah Shenker, Survival International
APIB lawyer Eloy Terena told Sun Online that 114 isolated and recently contacted Indigenous groups are in danger as the new more virulent strain emerged in Brazil.
He said: “We have been living a very serious moment in our country.
“The current Brazilian government has implemented an indigenous policy that is extremely harmful to Indigenous peoples.”
Mr Terena added: “These are cultures and languages. that we will never recover.”
The uncontacted Kawahiva Indians build intricate ladders up trees to collect honey from bees’ nests and they make traps to catch fish in the streams by their campsCredit: Reuters
Ms Shenker told The Sun Online: “If their lands are properly protected from outsiders, uncontacted tribes — those who avoid contact with mainstream society — should be relatively safe from the coronavirus pandemic.
“But many of their territories are being invaded and stolen for logging, mining and agribusiness, with the encouragement of President Bolsonaro, who has virtually declared war on Brazil’s indigenous peoples.”
Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of carrying out genocide by encouraging loggers to invade parts of the Amazon where many tribes live.
The champion of tree felling and a climate change sceptic, he has said wouldn’t give up “one centimetre more” of land to indigenous communities.
Last year, a global coalition of artists, celebrities, scientists and intellectuals warned in an open letter to Bolsonaro his policies combined with the pandemic put the tribes “on the even of genocide”.
Even last week he was railing against masks and telling his people to “stop whining” about the killer virus, despite the emergence of the new strain P1 as Brazil is now hitting record highs for daily deaths.
Besides uncontacted tribes, the pandemic has blighted many other indigenous people given their communal ways of life which can encourage its spread within communities.
In many cases their geographical distance from hospitals on which they generally rely only to treat diseases brought by non-indigenous society.
Some indigenous people in Brazil are now being vaccinated following a huge amount of pressure from the indigenous movement.
But last month it emerged Evangelical Christian missionaries, many from the West, were stoking fears of the vaccine.
Claudemir da Silva, is an Apurinã leader representing indigenous communities on the Purus River, a tributary of the Amazon.
He told Reuters by phone, he said: “It’s not happening in all villages, just in those that have missionaries or evangelical chapels where pastors are convincing the people not to receive the vaccine, that they will turn into an alligator and other crazy ideas.”
Claims of genocide have been laid at the door of president of Brazil Jair BolsonaroCredit: AFP or licensors
Patients with the P1 mutation from the Amazon have been found to suffer for days longer and have a viral load ten times higher than with other variants.
Experts have warned the dangerous new Covid strain could be three times more infectious than other types, and vaccines might not be so effective.
The P1 mutation was first detected in jungle city Manaus, where it spread like wildfire as cemeteries filled with hundreds of new graves.
It has become the dominant strain elsewhere in Brazil, driving an alarming rise in deaths and infections.
Brazil has the second highest number of deaths and the third highest number of cases in the world – with 259,402 fatalities from 10.7million patients.
It saw two consecutive days of record high deaths on March 2 and March 3, with 1,726 and 1,840.
The tribes should be safe because of no contact from the outside world,.. but their land is being invaded by greedy outsiders, some of whom are carrying the virusCredit: www.uncontactedtribes.org
An aerial view of logs illegally cut from Amazon rainforest are seen in sawmills near Humaita, Amazonas State
Many uncontacted tribes people often fire arrows at outsiders because they feel threatened – and for good reasonCredit: Reuters
Many of the tribes people have little or no immune system to outsiders’ disease
The bare-chested man in the remarkable video is understood to belong to the nomadic Awá people
Doctors and nurses have pleaded for help as hospitals are running out of oxygen and refrigerator trucks are wheeled in to store bodies.
Hospitals face being overwhelmed, with some now working at more than 90 per cent capacity.
Amazonas’ state capital Manaus has been placed into a state of emergency for six months as the numbers of patients surpassed their first wave highs.
Temporary morgues are also being erected to hold up to 22,000 coffins as a 100 burials are being registered every day in Manaus.
Fabio Biolchini, field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Manaus, told The Sun Online about life on the frontlines.
The health worker said: “One of the most difficult parts was to see these people dying without dignity, sometimes sitting on a plastic chair because there were no beds.
“Patients were dying with dozens of people in the same room, with family members there crying beside them and all of them unable to do anything.
“To die in such a way is very undignified. Without privacy, without being surrounded by family. It was very sad to see this every day and many times.”
A rare photograph of the Uru Eu Wau Wau are famous for tattooing around their mouths with genipapo, a black dye made from an Amazonian fruitCredit: Survival
Clear felling and burning of forest in Rôndonia photographed from the air by Brazilian NGO
Vanda Ortega, from the Witoto Indigenous group and dressed in traditional clothing, is one of the first from her tribe to get a jabCredit: AP:Associated Press
Members of an unknown Amazon Basin tribe and their dwellings are seen during a flight over the Brazilian state of Acre along the border