Over 570 indigenous children dead as Brazil declares medical emergency and starts investigations

Over 570 indigenous children dead as Brazil declares medical emergency and starts investigations.

Over 570 indigenous children dead as Brazil declares medical emergency and starts investigations. Photo by Sam Valadi, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Government of Brazil declares a medical emergency in Yanomami territory and launches an investigation into the death of 570 indigenous children who died due to mercury contamination of rivers caused by illegal mining

Hundreds of indigenous children from the Yanomani territory have died in Brazil due to severe malnutrition suffered by their communities, after the impact of mercury contamination in rivers caused by illegal miners.  

According to Brazil´s ministry of health, the government has now declared a medical emergency in the region, after reports of child deaths belonging to the country’s largest indigenous reservation started emerging.  

Experts have said that children in the region are dying due to malnutrition and other diseases caused by illegal gold mining.  

As per local reports, an estimated 570 children from the community died during the four-year term of Former President Jair Bolsonaro.

Officials suggest that most of the deaths were from curable diseases, mainly malnutrition, caused by mercury used by wildcat gold miners, locally known as garimpeiros.

Aside from this, children have also been reported to have died after suffering from diarrhea and malformations. 

Yanomami and local officials estimate that more than 20,000 illegal gold miners are presently working in the region, despite a ban imposed on mining in the Yanomami territory.  

The region which is also nationally protected saw an increase in mining operations after Bolsonaro won the elections in 2018.  

After coming into power, he started allowing mining operations in areas that were previously protected.

He also has been reported to have offered to legalize wild cat mining.  

“The number of invaders has increased, both loggers and miners, who are at the service of people who have strong economic power, and organised crime is beginning to enter the territory. The environmental and health issue is getting worse and is putting the indigenous people at risk of extinction”, said Joenia Wapichana, the only indigenous woman elected to the Brazilian Congress, as cited by the UN.  

She added, “the devastation caused by the garimpeiros and the powerful economic interests bent on exploiting the rainforest is posing a threat to both biodiversity and the very existence of indigenous life”.  

The most recent move to declare a medical emergency comes after the new president of Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced that he aims to restore health services to the Yanomami people, that had been dismantled by the Bolsonaro government.  

Lula also took to twitter to discuss about the situation in the region as he Tweeted, “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”.  

His new government also aims to put an end to illegal gold mining in the country, along with a crackdown on illegal deforestation in the Amazon, which also increased to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.  

“We must hold 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,” said Sonia Guajajara, the first indigenous woman to be a cabinet minister, heading a new Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, as cited by Reuters.  

The government has also announced that they will be flying in food packages to the reserve, where an estimated 26,000 people from the Yanomami tribe reside.


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Written by

Imran Khan

A journalist, content professional, and former TEDx Speaker based in Tarragona (Spain), with a Master's in International Journalism (Cardiff, UK). Imran is an online reporter for The Euro Weekly News and covers international as well as Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com