Yanomamis are forced to flee the streets because of a health crisis
BOA VISTA, Brazil (AP) — From a distance, the small group lying on the sidewalk outside the city market could be confused with hundreds of homeless people spread through Boa Vista.
But they are Yanomami. They are an Indigenous tribe from the Amazon rainforest that live in relative isolation. Years of neglect by the former far-right President Jair Bosonaro caused a health crisis which grew worse as illegal gold miners invaded their territory. Dozens of Yanomami ended up roaming in the region’s largest city.
The eldest ones in a group living in Boa Vista’s food market are a couple — Oma Yanomami, 46, and Bonita Yanomami, 35. Both are part of the Koroasipiitheri Community, and can only be reached by air. Their 3-year-old son was suffering from malaria, and they were medivaced to Boa Vista in September.
They initially stayed at the Indigenous Health House, also known as Casai. It is a federal facility located on Boa Vista’s outskirts. This sprawling city, home to 440,000 people, is the capital of Roraima State. The family moved out of the facility within a few days and started living on the streets.
“It was too crowded,” Oma Yanomami told The Associated Press Thursday in broken Portuguese while sitting on the dirty sidewalk. His wife, however, was still asleep despite heavy traffic. Both appeared to be in poor health after sustaining bruises.
The Ministry of Health published a report this week that paints a grim portrait of Casai. It was originally built to house Yanomami who are undergoing treatment as well as their families. It can accommodate 200 people but houses 700, or 2%, of the Yanomami population. It doesn’t include the hospitalized, which includes many children with severe malnutrition.
“The bathrooms are unhealthy, and the dining areas are insufficient and unpleasant. In addition, the food was insufficient until a few months ago,” the report says. “The Yanomami lack space to prepare their food and other activities, so at night, there are several drunken people and reports of violence and car hit-and-runs.”
According to the report, 150 Yanomami are eligible to return to their villages, but the wait for a place on a return flight can be very long — 10 years in one extreme case.
An estimated 30,000 Yanomami people live in Brazil’s largest Indigenous territory, which covers an area roughly the size of Portugal and stretches across Roraima and Amazonas states in the northwest corner of Brazil’s Amazon.
Oma and Bonita Yanomami were soon thrown into poverty by the daily grind of living on the streets. Their son developed pneumonia quickly, and his parents went on a drinking binge. The baby was taken to the local hospital by health workers who learned of the situation. There, he was admitted as “indigent,” which put him on the adoption path without the parents’ consent.
The couple never saw their child for four consecutive months. Social workers associated with the Indigenous movement intervened to allow them to visit their child. A judicial order is now crucial for the future of the child.
Yanomami, a majority of whom have drinking problems, is common to be seen on the streets in Boa Vista. While some go back to Casai in the middle of the night, others end their lives under viaducts.
Their lives are hard. Two weeks ago, a Yanomami mother gave birth on a sidewalk. According to the State Secretary of Justice, a Yanomami woman gave birth on a sidewalk two weeks ago. He was injured during a fight in prison. Roraima houses 269 Indigenous prisoners of different peoples.
The federal government led by President LuizInacio Lula Da Silva declared a state of emergency for the Yanomami in January. Over 1,000 Yanomami people have been treated by military doctors at Boa Vista’s field hospital. 4,000 food bags were distributed across the vast territory.
Security forces also began to destroy equipment and restrict entry. illegal gold minersEstimated at 20,000 people. Many have left the Indigenous territory while others continue to mine gold.
The Indigenous groups now want the Yanomami boy, who is now four years old and has six siblings, to be returned his parents.
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