BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s health ministry has declared a medical emergency in Yanomami province, the country’s largest indigenous reserve on the border with Venezuela, following reports of children dying from malnutrition and other diseases caused by illegal gold mining.
A decree published by the incoming government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday said the aim of the declaration is to restore health services to the Yanomami people that were dismantled by his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
Amazon’s Sumauma Press platform reports that during the four years of Bolsonaro’s presidency, 570 Yanomami children died from treatable diseases, mainly malnutrition, as well as malaria, diarrhea and deformities caused by mercury used by wild gold miners, citing data obtained by the Freedom Act. the information.
Lula visited the Yanomami health center in Boa Vista, Roraima state, on Saturday, after posting photos showing children and elderly men and women with thin ribs.
“More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was genocide: a premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government insensitive to suffering,” Lula said on Twitter.
The government has announced food packages that will be flown to the reserve, where some 26,000 Yanomami live in an area of tropical rainforest and savanna the size of Portugal.
The reserve has been invaded by illegal gold miners for decades, but incursions have multiplied since Bolsonaro won office in 2018 promising to allow mining on previously protected lands and offering to legalize indiscriminate mining.
There are also indications of the involvement of organized crime. In recent violence, men on speedboats in rivers have fired automatic weapons into Aboriginal villages whose communities oppose the entry of gold miners.
Some gold miners have begun leaving, fearing enforcement from the Lula government, and appear to be heading across the border into neighboring Guyana and Suriname, said Estevao Cinera, a researcher at the Instituto Socioambiental, an indigenous rights NGO.
Lula said the new government would put an end to illegal gold mining while moving to crack down on illegal deforestation in the Amazon, which has risen to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.
“We must hold the previous government accountable for allowing this situation to get so bad that we find adults weighing like babies, and children reduced to skin and bones,” said Sonia Guajara, the first indigenous woman to serve as a cabinet minister. A new Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.
(Reporting by Anthony Bodel; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
“Infuriatingly humble analyst. Bacon maven. Proud food specialist. Certified reader. Avid writer. Zombie advocate. Incurable problem solver.”