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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Calls on Brazil to Protect the Yanomami

Photo Credit: Chico Batata/Greenpeace

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Calls on Brazil to Protect the Yanomami

Brazil is facing increasing international pressure to uphold indigenous peoples’ rights. On Monday, July 20, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States, issued precautionary measures calling on Brazil to present an effective strategy to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory within the next 15 days.

The Commission understood the urgency of the situation, and the risk of irreversible damage to the Yanomami and Ye’kwana peoples given the lack of appropriate actions taken by the government to tackle the pandemic in their territory. In its analysis of the request for precautionary measures, which was published on July 20th, the Commission described the government’s duty to adopt necessary measures to protect the rights to health, life and personal integrity of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana indigenous peoples. The request for precautionary measures was submitted by the Hutukara Yanomami Association, together with the National Human Rights Council of Brazil.

Leaders came together for the first Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum held in the village of Watoriki in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory (in the Brazilian state of Roraima), from 20 to 23 November 2019. Credit: Victor Moriyama/ISA

The precautionary measures issued by the Commission call on the Brazilian government to implement preventative measures and provide quality medical care that takes into account the cultural specificities of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana peoples. The government strategy must be reported to the Commission within 15 days. “The Commission’s decision is important. It confirms that the Brazilian State is not fulfilling its obligations in combating COVID-19 in the Yanomami Territory, nor acting to remove the illegal miners invading their lands, bringing diseases and violence with them,” says Luiz Henrique Pecora, a lawyer working with Hutukara.

The Yanomami and Ye’kwana peoples are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their lands are distant from urban centers and hospital infrastructure. But the biggest problem they face today is an invasion of some 20,000 illegal gold miners who roam freely in their territory without any measures taken by the state to control them. The miners travel between cities and the forest, potentially carrying the new coronavirus with them. Already, coronavirus cases have spiked in the communities closest to illegal mining areas.

The precautionary measures granted by the Commission are further proof that Brazil has not taken adequate measures to protect the Yanomami and Ye’kwana from the pandemic. It has not taken any action to remove the miners from the territory. Until now, the only action taken was a media-oriented trip organized by the army that was ineffective and severely criticized by Yanomami and Yek’wana leaders. So far, the Yanomami health district (DSEI-Y) has confirmed 136 cases of COVID-19 in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory.

Sign the Petition

Yanomami and Ye’kwana organizations are leading a big public campaign to remove the illegal miners from their territory. Join us in supporting them — add your signature to the petition, and help us get to half a million signatures, a number the government can’t ignore!

For more info and to add your signature, go here: https://MinersOutCovidOut.org

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Amazon Emergency Fund Scales Up

Amazon Emergency Fund Scales Up

The Amazon Emergency Fund (AEF) was launched in May to respond to the growing COVID-19 crisis in the Amazon, where government inaction has meant skyrocketing numbers of illnesses and deaths among indigenous communities. The disease continues to spread across rivers and forests, driven in large part by miners and loggers taking advantage of the pandemic to carry out illegal activities. The continued expansion of extractive industries is also a factor in the propagation of the virus, which has already resulted in more than a half million confirmed infections and 17,500 deaths across the Amazon Basin. Government responses to date have been inadequate. And despite large infusions of cash from the donor community, little government aid is reaching most remote indigenous territories where communities are suffering from the disease outbreak, economic hardship from the shutdown, and a crippled public health infrastructure.

The Solution: What AEF and indigenous partners are doing

Faced with this situation, indigenous organizations in the region represented by the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) decided to take matters into their own hands. Specifically, they’ve stepped up to raise funds, purchase and deliver food and medical aid, and are collaborating with a wide range of civil society partners to reach communities in need. The AEF successfully deployed it’s first round of grants, more than a quarter million dollars to COICA organizations in nine countries, and is actively working to disburse a second round of funding.

In order to support COICA and other territorial communities, some two dozen NGOs established the Founding Solidarity Circle, which to date has channeled more than a million dollars directly to communities on the ground. The Founding Solidarity Circle, which includes Rainforest Foundation US as well as Amazon Watch, Avaaz and a host of others, have specifically channeled financial support to indigenous partners to deliver food, personal protective equipment, health supplies, support for logistics, transport and communications, as well as tools and seeds necessary to confront the growing food insecurity in the region.

French Government Brings Scale to the AEF

In July, the AEF crossed a new milestone with a critical $2 million donation from the French Government that takes it over halfway towards the $5m goal set in May.  This means a new round of funding will reach a much wider set of communities and may also allow for greater coordination and synergy for things like purchasing of medical supplies, PPE and covid19 test kits, or replication of larger scale efforts supported by Avaaz and Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples Articulation (APIB) to build field hospitals in Brazil. As the scope and duration of the pandemic expands, and the short- and medium-term economic impacts deepen, there is growing awareness that humanitarian responses will be needed over longer periods of time, heightening the need to increase resource mobilization and build medium- and long-term capacity for both disaster response and economic reactivation. The AEF is seeking to strengthen its own capacity as a vehicle for COICA and partners to play a leadership role in meeting this challenge.

For more information or to get in touch, please visit amazonemergencyfund.org or contact

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Support Our Work

Rainforest Foundation US is tackling the major challenges of our day: deforestation, the climate crisis, and human rights violations. Your donation moves us one step closer to creating a more sustainable and just future.

Daniela supports the overall administration and financial and operational management of Rainforest Foundation US’s work in Peru, with a recent focus on supporting the program’s COVID-19 response. Prior to joining Rainforest Foundation, Daniela was a supervisor at the Casa Andina hotel network in Peru, providing staff and management oversight of large teams. She holds a Master’s in Business Management from the Universidad San Martin De Porres. She is a native Spanish language speaker and is proficient in English.