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Protection of indigenous Amazonians

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  • Published
    29th Apr, 2020

Over 200 organisations sign statement on protection of indigenous Amazonians. They demanded a ban on all industrial activity and proselytisation in indigenous territory in addition to proper health services and law enforcement.


Over 200 organisations sign statement on protection of indigenous Amazonians. They demanded a ban on all industrial activity and proselytisation in indigenous territory in addition to proper health services and law enforcement.


  • The Amazon basin is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, covering a size approximately equal to the lower 48 United States.
  • 6-8 million square kilometers of forest house approximately 10% of the world’s biodiversity and 15% of its freshwater.
  • These “lungs of the world” provide ecological services for the planet, but also a source of livelihood for hundred of indigenous groups and forest dependent peoples.
  • Amazon tribes: It is also the ancestral home of 1 million Indians. They are divided into about 400 tribes, each with its own language, culture and territory.
  • Countries: The Amazon is a vast region that spans across eight rapidly developing countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, an overseas territory of France. Brazil is home to approximately 65% of the Amazon basin.
  • The forests of the Amazon basin have been used for food and resources for thousands of years by native peoples; products such as rubber, palm fruits, and Brazil nuts, as well as countless medicines have been derived from the forest.

What’s the demand?

  • Governments and other entities should enact urgent policies to ensure that the novel coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) does not result in massive deaths within indigenous communities, especially in the Amazon, over 200 international organisations demanded on April 21, 2020.
  • These demands include:
    • A moratorium on all industrial activities on or surrounding indigenous lands including mining, oil drilling, logging, and agribusiness operations
    • The barring of all religious proselytisation
    • The affirmation of the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and self-protection during the pandemic
    • Adequate and culturally-appropriate public health services
    • Rigorous law enforcement on organised crime threats in and around indigenous territories
    • The creation of urgent action working groups to deal with the health, food, and security emergencies that have arisen during this pandemic

Threat arising from Coronavirus:

The threats posed by COVID-19 to indigenous communities vary over the enormous expanse of the Amazon rainforest. They are compounded by ongoing invasions of indigenous territories and the targeting of indigenous leaders with violence and intimidation.

  • Amazon: Around 7,349 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Pan Amazon region as of April 20, 2020, resulting in 383 deaths.
  • In Brazil, illegal loggers, miners, land grabbers and hunters have fanned out into the Brazilian Amazon's federally-protected forests, putting indigenous peoples and traditional communities in grave danger.
  • More than 25,000 illegal miners have invaded Yanomami territory where they are suspected of transmitting the coronavirus to a 15-year old Yanomami boy, who died of the disease.
  • In Ecuador, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed profound weakness in public health infrastructure, particularly for historically marginalised communities such as indigenous peoples.
  • There are 10,128 cases of COVID-19 in Ecuador, with 1,333 deaths reported.
  • The COVID-19 emergency in the Ecuadorian Amazon has been compounded with the unprecedented flooding of indigenous communities and the recent rupture of two oil pipelines.
  • These pipelines spilled crude oil into the Coca and Napo rivers and polluted the water sources of more than 90,000 people, including 2,000 indigenous families.

The road ahead:

COVID-19 is advancing into indigenous territories, with initial cases of infections being documented in the Shipibo community of Nuevo Bethel in the central Amazon region. Without guidance from public health agencies, many indigenous groups are taking preventative measures on their own to stop the coronavirus from entering their communities. These include voluntary social distancing, use of proper hygiene practices, suspension of major protests, events, travel and even the closing of traffic between villages to prevent the disease's progression.


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