3 Amazon Indigenous Villages Wiped Out with Deadly Epidemic

amazon children brazil photo

Native Amazonian children-- not from the Yanomami tribe but still critical in protecting our planet's lungs, the Amazon. Photo: Jess Root

When I traveled to the Amazon Rainforest in 2008, scoping out the work of non-profit Projeto Saude e Alegria, I came home with one of those "Duh!" lightbulb moments.

A large part of protecting the Amazon Rainforest and its rich biodiversity lies within protecting its inhabitants--the people who live there. It's less likely for encroachment and logging to take place, though as we know, still does. Culturally, we can stand to learn a thing or two (or two million) from the natives who best know the forest's resources and how they can be applied, for example medicinally.

Hence, the tragedy of the recent epidemic to hit the Amazon's indigenous tribes dwelling in Amazonia's Venezuela-Brazil border as reported by the Associated Press.Three remote villages of Yanomami natives have been wiped out by what health workers are speculating to be malaria. Over the course of recent months, 100 cases of the mosquito-borne infectious disease have been identified in the area, and a staggering estimate of about 50 indigenous, including many children, have been killed.

Climate Change or Blood Gold?
Indigenous rights activist Christina Haverkamp suggests that the epidemic may have sprung from, "Brazilian gold miners working in illegal camps near indigenous settlements." It sounds like the world's appetite for irresponsibly-mined gold could be the culprit. The news report also points out the fact that,

Nationwide, the Health Ministry says 39,658 malaria cases have been reported so far in 2010, an increase of about 42 percent compared to the same period last year.

Perhaps the outbreak has something to do with climate change? Either way, the epidemic comes as yet another struggle for the Yanomami who have long faced pressure from the outside world.

The Need to Tag Team!
Indigenous rights and environmental groups, we can't fight the good fight individually. With the health of the Amazon largely in the hands of its people, we can't forget the inseparability of these two causes: indigenous rights and environmentalism. Let's tag team by supporting each other, signing petitions, applying pressure on government and using our purchasing savvy to ensure we're not supporting something shady (ie, blood gold).

More on the Amazon:
Amazon Tribe Already Feels the Pinch From Climate Change & Deforestation
Rivers Disappearing in Drought-Stricken Amazon
Amazon Road Workers Find Ancient Earth Carvings

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