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Amazonia: faced with the scourge of illegal gold panning, the Yanomami receive support from the Brazilian state


The Brazilian president did not skimp on the means. Since Wednesday 1er February, the airspace of the Yanomami indigenous territory is closed to all aviation and the rivers are controlled by the navy. The objective is clear: to asphyxiate the supply of garimpeirosthese gold diggers who invaded and seriously polluted this 10,000 hectare territory with mercury, to the point of causing an unprecedented famine among these people. “The Brazilian government will put an end to gold panning on all indigenous territories, starting with that of the Yanomami. No logging permits will be granted on indigenous lands”assured President Lula to the press on January 31, detailing the measures he had just taken by decree.

Recent images of emaciated bodies, children with round bellies and protruding ribs with scattered tufts of hair on their skulls, have greatly shocked the country. The famine is a direct consequence of this criminal activity which would have destroyed an average of 1,038 hectares per year in the Amazon, during the mandate of President Bolsonaro, according to the Mapbiomas platform.

It took the visit of President Lula on January 21 to Boa Vista, capital of the State of Roraima, for the country to take the measure of the outcome in which the Yanomami found themselves. The next day, the Minister of Health declared the territory in ” health emergency “, and evacuated the most seriously ill, as the local sanitary facilities were no longer in working order. In retaliation or to sow terror, the miners burned some of them or used them as warehouses.

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” Health emergency “

In a few days, nearly 1,000 patients were transported by helicopter to hospitals in Boa Vista and the air force is said to have dropped 61 tons of food in the villages. According to the Ministry of Health, 538 children under the age of 5 died during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, including at least 495 from “avoidable causes” : acute malnutrition, malaria, pneumonia or a simple intestinal parasitosis. If undernutrition is responsible for more than half of this infant mortality, malaria would have been detected in 11,530 Yanomami patients in 2022, a record figure and most certainly underestimated. At the national level, this number corresponds to 9.3% of malaria cases, while the Yanomami represent only 0.013% of the Brazilian population.

“Brazil will use part of the international funds intended for the Amazon to help the Yanomami and expel gold panning”, announced Marina Silva, the Minister for the Environment, during her meeting with the German Minister for Economic Cooperation in Brasilia on 30 January. Svenja Schulze accompanied the German Chancellor, who came to announce the resumption of funding from the Amazon Fund to the tune of 200 million euros. This endowment for preservation projects, created in 2008, had been frozen during the Bolsonaro mandate.

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