Dozens of Indigenous children suffering from malnutrition and acute diseases have been hospitalised in northern Brazil, with relatives in hammocks holding their emaciated frames in scenes that underscore the gravity of a public health crisis.
The health secretary of Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state, said on Friday that 59 Indigenous children were currently at the only pediatric hospital in the state, 45 of them from the Yanomami people. Eight were under intensive care.
That compares to a total 703 hospitalisations in all of last year, the secretary said, noting that most children have been taken to hospital for acute diarrhea, gastroenterocolitis, malnutrition, pneumonia and malaria.
Brazil’s government last week declared a medical emergency in the Yanomami territory, the country’s largest indigenous reservation, after reports of children dying of malnutrition and other diseases caused by illegal gold mining.
Officials have called the crisis a “genocide,” blaming the administration of former President Jair Bolsonaro for the neglect, with some saying the territory now looks like a “concentration camp”.
“Malnutrition is the biggest problem right now,” Boa Vista health secretary Regiane Matos told Reuters in an interview. “These people were forgotten in their communities. In recent years it has only gotten worse, and what we want now are solutions”.
She said illegal mining in the region “aggravated” the crisis, severely polluting the territory’s crucial waterways, where Yanomamis get their water and food.