Brazil declares emergency in Yanomami after death reports of children from malnutrition

Brazil declared an emergency in Yanomami territory, the nation’s largest indigenous reservation, after reports of children dying of malnutrition and other diseases caused by illegal gold mining surfaced. Lula has blamed former president Jair Bolsonaro for the dire condition of the Yanomami people. In a bid to restore health services for them, the government issued a decree on Friday.  

A total of 570 Yanomami children lost their lives of curable diseases which mainly include malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and malformations caused by mercury used by wildcat gold miners, reported Amazon journalism platform Sumauma reported, citing data obtained by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

After photos of children and elderly men and women with their thin ribs were made public, Lula paid a visit to Yanomami health centre in Boa Vista in Roraima state on Saturday. “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.

Relief aid in the form of food packages will also be provided to 26,000 Yanomamis in the region, reported Reuters.

The region has long been invaded by illegal gold miners for decades. The whole issue was further accelerated in 2018 when Bolsanaro allowed mining on previously protected lands and gave free hand to illegal wildcat mining.

The recent escalation also involves men on speed boats shooting at indigenous villages with automatic weapons. These are the villagers whose communities oppose the entry of gold miners in the region. Illegal deforestation of Amazon is also one of the most contentious election issues which Lula has vowed to tackle. 

Sonia Guajajara, the first indigenous woman to be a cabinet minister, heading a new Ministry of Indigenous Affairs said held the previous government accountable for allowing this situation to get worse to the point where “we find adults weighing like children, and children reduced to skin and bones.” 


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