Since March, studies and surveys by researchers and civil society organizations have been issuing warnings about the extreme vulnerability of the indigenous population when facing the Covid-19 pandemic. The environmental devastation promoted by the burning and deforestation, which reached record levels in 2020, is pointed out as a significant risk factor for indigenous health, by increasing the risk of contagion and bringing territorial instability.
Reporter Brasil brought to the public an unprecedented survey of the NGO Global Forest Watch that points to the devastation promoted by more than 115 thousand outbreaks of fire in several Indigenous Lands since the beginning of the year until October 29. According to the report, out of the more than 724 TIs contemplated by the report, in several states, 61% registered fires. Local leaders and experts point out the lack of structure to fight the fires – used by farmers to clean the pasture – and denounce the abandonment of the National Indian Foundation (Funai). Indigenous Land Parque do Xingu, in Mato Grosso State, is among the most affected in 2020, with 10,502 outbreaks of fire. “Our reality is not good at all. We’ve lost many leaders, our people are dying [from Covid-19] and, to make matters worse, our house, which is our pharmacy and our supermarket, is on fire,” reported Watatakalu Yawalapiti, the region’s leader, who is home to 16 ethnic groups in 500 villages.
Although the fire from the fires does not directly affect the communities, its impact on health will be felt, points out the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. The research “Covid-19 and burning in the Legal Amazon and Pantanal: cumulative aspects and vulnerabilities,” released by the Deutsche Welle on November 12, warns about how the coexistence of the increase in burning and the presence of Covid-19 can further aggravate the health situation of the indigenous peoples. “The large occurrence of burnings, which has reached record numbers in 2020, combined with low humidity in the Amazon region and Pantanal, may worsen the impact of the epidemic of Covid-19. The particulate material and toxic gases generated by the burning of biomass reach long distances, and can affect large cities in the North and Midwest regions, as well as river-dwellers populations, quilombos and indigenous lands hundreds of kilometers away from the sources of fire. The particulate material has a great inflammatory potential, which can aggravate the cases of Covid-19, being also a gateway for respiratory infections,” says the technical note of the study. The document highlights that one of the priority areas for strengthening the health system and control of fires is precisely that of the “arc of deforestation,” especially in northern Mato Grosso State, where TI Parque do Xingu (MT) is located, and in the southeast of Pará State.
Alongside with the fires, deforestation on indigenous lands, caused by gold diggers, miners, and illegal loggers, grows exponentially, increasing the risk of Covid-19 spreading in the villages, points out another study, prepared by the Instituto Socioambiental [Socio-environmental Institute] (ISA) and released in September. According to the organization, in the Trincheira-Bacajá, Kayapó and Munduruku indigenous lands, in southwest Pará, deforestation increased, respectively, 827%, 420% and 238%, between March and July 2020. The regions are among the seven most invaded lands in the Legal Amazon, together with the Karipuna and Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau (Rondônia State), Araribóia (Maranhão State) and Yanomami (Amazonas and Roraima States). As a response, the cases of the diseases shoot up in the territories, says ISA.
In the most recent survey made by the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) about the impact of Covid-19 among the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, until November 9, 28,241 confirmed cases of the disease were registered, 643 suspects and 695 deaths, in 133 peoples.