A Tragedy Foretold: COVID-19 Infections Spike in Yanomami Territory

A Tragedy Foretold: COVID-19 Infections Spike in Yanomami Territory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2020

YANOMAMI AND YE’KWANA ORGANIZATIONS AND A NETWORK OF RESEARCHERS LAUNCH AN UNPRECEDENTED REPORT THAT DETAILS THE PROGRESS OF THE PANDEMIC IN THE INDIGENOUS TERRITORY, SUGGESTING THAT ONE IN THREE YANOMAMI MAY HAVE ALREADY BEEN INFECTED BY THE NEW CORONAVIRUS

  • There has been an increase in the number of cases by more than 250% in the last three months in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory.
  • Less than 4.7% of the total population has been tested 
  • 10,000 Yanomami and Ye’kwana may have been exposed to the virus; more than a third of the population. 
  • Timeline shows sequence of abuses against the Yanomami and Ye’kwana

READ FULL REPORT HERE

Roraima State, Brazil – “Inside, we’re not doing well. We are all sick. Our forest got sick” – the testimony of a Yanomami person from the Kayanau region, in Roraima, Brazil, speaking of a disaster foretold.

Almost eight months after the first COVID-19 death among the Yanomami people, the health situation in the Yanomami Indigenous Territory (YIT) is out of control. According to the new report “Xawara: tracing the deadly path of COVID-19 and government negligence in the Yanomami Territory”, launched this Thursday, November 19th and put together by the Pro-Yanomami and Ye’kwana Network (Pro-YY Network) and the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum, the number of confirmed cases in the territory jumped from 335 to 1,202 between August and October — an increase of more than 250% cases per month. According to monitoring conducted by the Pro-YY Network, at the end of October there were 23 suspected and confirmed deaths from COVID-19 among the Yanomami people. 

COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in 23 of the 37 regions of the YIT, located between the states of Roraima and Amazonas and home to around 26,700 indigenous people, including isolated groups, who are even more vulnerable to disease. 

The report demonstrates that 10,000 people, or more than a third of the total population, may have already been exposed to the virus. Since June, the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum has called for the removal of the thousands of illegal gold miners who work in the territory and are vectors of the disease. The new report shows that their initial fears were valid: illegal mining operations have been a clear source of COVID-19 infections in the territory. 

The #MinersOutCovidOut campaign started by the Yanomami and Ye’kwana peoples, which has support from Brazilian and international allies, has gathered over 410,000 signatures in support of the indigenous peoples’ struggle.

The release of these new numbers represents the latest chapter in a story of historic proportions, suggesting that the government of Brazil has allowed and at times encouraged activities that have exposed the Yanomami and Ye’kwana peoples to the ravages of a deadly disease, while crippling their ability to protect their ancestral lands from illegal gold miners that have stripped the forests and poisoned the rivers of the northern Amazon.

“Data from the Ministry of Health indicate that there are 11 regions of the TIY where less than 10 tests were performed by DSEI-Y [Yanomami Health District] and three others where no tests were performed, that is, in more than a third of the regions there is very little information on the arrival of COVID-19, reinforcing claims by Indigenous people that in reality the number of people infected could be much higher. This information also reveals that, through mid-September, 70.5% of the tests performed by the Yanomami Health District were positive. In the region of Demini, for example, one of the most tested in the territory, over 90% of the population was infected with COVID-19. The number of tests conducted by the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (SESAI) up to October 23 throughout the TIY is insignificant: 1,270 tests were positive, negative or discarded. In other words, less than 4.7% of the total population was tested”, according to the report. 

For Maurício Ye’kwana, a director of the Hutukara Yanomami Association and spokesman for the campaign, the report is an instrument that sheds light on the government’s neglect in the YIT during the pandemic. He says that the investigation represents an important step “not only for the Yanomami and Ye’kwana, but for all Indigenous peoples who protect our Mother Earth and keep the forest standing” to be able to show government authorities the strength and unity of the Indigenous struggle in Brazil. “We have partners who support our struggle. We ask for urgent removal of the invaders from our land,” he said.

“We want to deliver this document to the Brazilian authorities. It’s an instrument to denounce the problems with the invasion of miners, the contamination of the environment including our rivers, and contamination from diseases, like this xawara [epidemic], which has been killing a lot of people”, added Dário Kopenawa Yanomami, Vice President of Hutukara. 

Timeline of abuses 

In addition to denouncing the current lack of control over the pandemic in the YIT, the report presents in detail how it has advanced across the largest indigenous land in Brazil thanks to government negligence. One of the main excerpts of the document is a timeline of events that illustrate the neglect and the sequence of abuses against the Yanomami and Ye’kwana throughout this period. 

One of the most dramatic episodes – which sparked outrage on social media in June – was the disappearance, for almost a month, of three children who died with suspected COVID-19. The babies were buried in a cemetery in the capital Boa Vista (RR) without the knowledge of their parents or representatives of the Yanomami people. In their culture, burying the dead is unacceptable. Despite the revolt and protests, the remains of the babies remain buried in the capital of Roraima, thousands of kilometers away from their communities. 

In July, a bit of government theater marked the advance of the pandemic in the YIT, and is detailed in the report. Three months after the first death of a 15-year old Yanomami boy from COVID-19, the federal government took 16,000 chloroquine tablets to health posts in the territory on an Army-led mission, and gave another 33,000 tablets to the DSEI-Y. The authorities argued that the tablets were for treating malaria, not COVID-19, as previously stated by SESAI. The conflicting versions about the purpose of the massive distribution of chloroquine also showed the explosion of malaria in the territory, which had already been denounced by indigenous leaders as a direct impact of the gold mining invasion.

The new report also features reports from the Yanomami and Ye’kwana on the advance of COVID-19 in the territory. The testimonies narrate how the pandemic progressed, mainly due to gold mining. “Inside, we’re not doing well. We are all sick. Our forest got sick. That’s the miner’s path, because many planes land there. When a plane arrives, many people get off it, and as many planes are coming, today this disease has arrived! It’s a strong disease!” said a Yanomami woman from Kayanau, in July.  Kayanau is the second largest illegal mining area in the territory. 

Francisco Yanomami, from the Marauiá region, also warned about the lack of tests: “We weren’t supposed to be dying of this, because of a strong disease, you know. […] Now it’s happening, COVID-19 symptoms are increasing, it’s increasing. What can we do? How do we know if it’s really COVID-19? How can we find out if it’s from COVID-19 that we’re dying? We have to know which disease is killing us. If we don’t have this test, we have no way of finding out if this disease is killing us!”

The report also tells how the Yanomami Indigenous Health Center (CASAI-Y) in Boa Vista became the main contamination hub for COVID-19 among indigenous people in the first months of the pandemic. “We are not here fighting for nothing! You whites, who are inside the District, who work for health, because you have worsened the situation, you made us very sad! (…) Why are you only doing bad things for us?”, asked Gerson Blane, leader of Marakana/Toototopi at the time. 

Finally, the report includes articles signed by experts: on the disrespect for Yanomami funerary rituals and culture, by the French anthropologist Bruce Albert; an x-ray of healthcare on YIT, by public health doctor Paulo Basta, from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation; and on the responsibility of the Brazilian State for the tragedy, by ISA lawyers Juliana Batista and Luiz Henrique Pecora. 

Working side by side with the Yanomami since 1975, Bruce Albert finishes his analysis by drawing a parallel between the desecration of the Yanomami dead by COVID-19 and political disappearances during the Brazilian dictatorship – both expressions of “collective amnesia” and social erasure. And that has endured today. “In fact, taking possession of the dead of others to erase them from collective memory and denying the grieving of their family members has always been the mark of a supreme stage of barbarism based on the contempt and denial of the Other, ethnic and/or political.”

READ FULL REPORT HERE

 

The #MinersOutCovidOut campaign is an initiative of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum and the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), Wanasseduume Ye’kwana Association (SEDUUME), Yanomami Kumirayoma Womens Association (AMYK), Texoli Ninam State Association Roraima (TANER), Yanomami Association of Rio Cauaburis and Affluents (AYRCA), Kurikama Yanomami Association (AKY) and Hwenama Association of Yanomami Peoples of Roraima (HAPYR). The campaign has support from the Coalition of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Amazon Watch, Survival International, Greenpeace Brasil, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Amnesty International, Amazon Cooperation Network (RCA), Igarapé Institute, Rainforest Foundation US and Rainforest Foundation Norway.
 
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Video: The Shaman’s Message

Video: The Shaman’s Message

Yanomami shamans are warriors of the spirit world. They connect the visible and invisible worlds, acting as shields against the evil powers emanating from both humans and non-human beings that threaten the lives of their communities. Shamans dedicate themselves to taming the entities and forces that move the universe. They hold up the sky.

The most well-known Yanomami shaman and leader, Davi Kopenawa, is the author of the book “The Falling Sky – words of a Yanomami shaman” (Harvard University Press, 2013) with French anthropologist Bruce Albert. Inspired by his words and teaching, Ye’kwana Leadership Forum produced the film “The Shaman’s Message”, to bring the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign to the world.

The campaign calls for the immediate removal of illegal miners who are active in the Yanomami Territory, destroying the forest and rivers, bringing violence and now COVID-19 with them into the communities.

Listen to the shaman’s message. Help the Yanomami and other indigenous peoples hold up the sky. They protect the forest, biodiversity and climate stability. Without them, without the Amazon, and without Earth’s ecosystems protected, new pandemics will emerge, the climate crisis will deepen, and humanity will disappear. We’re already seeing the collapse happen in many parts of the world. What are we waiting for to finally hear the message of indigenous peoples? They won’t be able to hold up the sky – and postpone the end of the world – for much longer without our help.

Sign the petition: https://MinersOutCovidOut.org

Credits for “The Shaman’s Message”

A production of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum and the #MinersOutCovidOut Campaign

Concept: Bruno Weis & O.R.C.A.

Script & Art Direction: O.R.C.A.

Production: Mini Estudio

Director: Rodrigo Pimenta

Editing: Gustavo Ribeiro

Graphics: Pedro Santos

Image research: Isabela Mota

Original Soundtrack: Beto

Villares Narrated by: Dário Vitório Kopenawa

Music Production: Beto Villares & Erico Theobaldo Sound

Effects: Fil Pinheiro

Cello: Rafael Cesario

Mixing: Beto Villares

Executive production: Paula Tesser

Supervised by: Davi Kopenawa & Dário Vitório Kopenawa

Support: Instituto Socioambiental, Amazon Watch, Greenpeace Brasil, Rainforest Foundation US & Rainforest Foundation Norway

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International Statement of Solidarity with Peruvian Indigenous Peoples During the Political Crisis

International Statement of Solidarity with Peruvian Indigenous Peoples During the Political Crisis

The following statement was prepared by Rainforest Foundation US and a coalition of nonprofits in response to the political turmoil in Peru

Click the thumbnail to see the PDF

The undersigned organizations, allies of the Peruvian Indigenous movement for decades, previously concerned about the COVID19 situation in the Peruvian Amazon and today alerted to the political situation in Peru, respectfully address public opinion and Peruvian authorities to state the following:

(1) We are concerned with the situation of political instability in Peru. Within a short time the Government has named three Presidents and has elected two parliaments. All of this in the midst of a global pandemic that has meant enormous human and material costs. Peru is one of the countries most negatively affected by COVID19 which faces great challenges in the immediate future.

(2) In this situation, Indigenous Peoples are one of the most affected sectors and the least attended to. Through much advocacy work and protests, by developing their own strategies for defense and intercultural health, Indigenous Peoples are facing the pandemic with very little support from the State.

(3) The Parliament’s recent decision to impeach President Vizcarra (six months out from
the upcoming general elections that are being convened) was justified by accusations of corruption during his term as a Regional Governor. These are being analyzed by the Attorney General of the Nation. The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has questioned the legitimacy and constitutionality of this parliamentary decision and the Peruvian Constitutional Tribunal has yet to clarify the constitutional foundation of the parliamentary accusation of “permanent moral incapacity”. Street protests have not stopped since Monday with many citizens denying the legitimacy of the government of Manuel Merino. Diverse high-level public functionaries have resigned in protest against the process being carried out by the parliament.

(4) In this context, we would underscore the statement of AIDESEP and the Wampis Territorial Government, indicating the illegitimacy of the current government and openly denouncing the Prime Minister who was just named, Antero Flores Araoz, who has characterized his long political history with many authoritarian and racists statements, and for vilifying Peru’s Indigenous Peoples whom he has publicly referred to as “llamas and vicuñas”. As an ex-minister, his legacy is also stained for having been part of the Cabinet that generated the “Bagua” massacre in 2009.

Given all this, we:

– Express our solidarity with the protests of all Peruvian citizens and in particular the expressions of rejection as manifested by Indigenous Peoples. We demand respect for the human rights of all citizens and that Police forces should not exercise indiscriminate repression, as has been seen in recent days.

– We call on Mr. Manuel Merino, who has been acting as president since November 10, and on the Peruvian Congress that created this situation, to listen to the voice of the Peruvian people and put aside their short term political interests, by correcting the decisions made. A constitutional solution which respects the institutions and guarantees free and fair elections as soon as possible is urgent.

– We respectfully suggest that the politicians that are put in charge of the work of redirecting this institutional crisis should be those who can generate a consensus and who understand that Peru is a diverse country, including rural and urban areas, Andean and Amazonian regions, mestizos and Indigenous Peoples.

No more repression! No more Baguazos! No more structural racism in Peru!

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Video: Reforestation Alert

Video: Reforestation Alert

Reforestation Alert is a video about the community of Buen Jardín de Callaru in the Peruvian Amazon that came together to fight illegal deforestation in their territory and restore what had been destroyed by illegal loggers and coca-growers. The film was produced by Rainforest Foundation US in partnership with the community of Buen Jardín de Callaru, the Organization of the Indigenous People of the Eastern Amazon (Organización Regional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente, or ORPIO) and If Not Us, Then Who.

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Rainforest Foundation US believes that our Rainforest Alert program can avoid nearly 4,000 square miles (1 million hectares) of deforestation over the coming decade – that’s twice the size of Delaware.

Hover over the amounts below to see how much rainforest you can help protect by donating to Rainforest Alert.

Financials & Transparency

Rainforest Foundation US Financials & Transparency

88.5% of Rainforest Foundation US’s funds go directly to our programs. Browse all of Rainforest Foundation US’s financial, tax, and grant documents, and our annual reports.

How RFUS Uses Funds

*Figures according to Rainforest Foundation US’s 2021 fiscal year 990 filing.

All online donations support Rainforest Foundation US’s work to protect the rainforests of Central and South America and will be allocated to the area of greatest need.

Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law and are processed in US dollars. Rainforest Foundation is a US nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (tax identification number 95-1622945) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

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RFUS COVID Response

In response to COVID-19, four indigenous leaders prepare bags of food and medical supplies to distribute to communities

Rainforest Foundation Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis is disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations and indigenous communities are no exception. 

Rainforest Foundation US (RFUS) recognized early on that the needs and responses to the crisis would change over time, which is why we implemented an array of short- and long-term interventions. 

These responses leverage existing relationships, networks and tools, while also seeking new collaboration and investments from a variety of organizations, including governments, foundations, other non-profits, and on-the-ground partners. 

RFUS is both a forest protection and a human rights organization. As such, we take our role in protecting the lives of indigenous peoples just as seriously as our role in supporting them to protect forests. 

This crisis is personal. Our partners are family.

How the COVID-19 Crisis is Affecting Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. While there is no evidence to suggest that indigenous peoples’ immune systems are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus than other populations (as has been the case with many introduced diseases in the past) impoverished community members often suffer from chronic health conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease that can increase the risk of extreme illness and death from the virus. Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ communal lifestyles, remote locations, and the lack of health care services mean that outbreaks in indigenous communities or often pervasive and difficult to contain. Indigenous elders – key to a community’s social fabric and holders of vast knowledge about rainforest land and life – are especially at risk. Already a number of elder members of indigenous communities in the Amazon have died from coronavirus simply for lack of a five dollar oxygen tank or because they could not make it to a hospital in time.

How Rainforest Foundation US is Tackling the COVID-19 Crisis

From the moment the pandemic hit Latin America, in early 2020, RFUS has been working around the clock to provide communities with four primary types of assistance:

Information and Communication

Indigenous organizations across the Amazon (and elsewhere) immediately recommended that communities go into voluntary self-isolation. 

A lack of appropriate information compelled RFUS to work with partners on the ground to produce posters, radio spots, and videos in indigenous languages and share them with communities to inform them of the seriousness of the pandemic and key prevention measures.

Support provided through November 2020:  US$ 19,027

Humanitarian Support

Many communities are safest if they stay in place, which means that they must minimize exposure to visitors and forgo travel to outbreak areas. Such measures make it difficult for communities to sell goods and access some basic necessities, such as the fuel, cooking oil, and salt that they have come to rely on. In order to support their self-isolation, our partners have initiated campaigns to raise funds and supplies.

Support provided through November 2020:  US$ 77,760

Medical Supplies and Protective Equipment

Indigenous organizations are actively coordinating with  the government to ensure it fulfills its obligation to provide medical supplies and equipment, PPEs, and disinfection kits to all, especially leaders, monitors staffing barriers, and indigenous health workers.  Now that the disease is spreading more widely, these supplies have become all the more important.

Support provided through November 2020: US$ 171,606

Supporting Sustainable Economic Activities

Remote indigenous communities, most of whom live in extreme poverty, are particularly vulnerable to the short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19. Quarantine measures and the paralysis of global trade and travel have made a bad situation worse. Therefore, RFUS and indigenous organizations are developing strategies and projects that will allow these communities to safely generate income.

Support provided through November 2020:  US$ 11,000

The COVID-19 crisis is a challenge to leaders around the world. This is especially true for indigenous organizations and leaders operating in historically neglected areas that lack basic public services. But the pandemic is also an opportunity to strengthen  local, regional and national indigenous governance systems. This strengthening is very much at the core of our work across tropical Latin America. Indigenous organizations in Peru, Brazil, Guyana and Panama are quickly adapting and stepping up to address the unique demands that the global pandemic has created as it steadily seeps into the most distant corners of the forest.

Leveraging Technology for COVID-19 Relief

Rainforest Foundation US is leveraging its extensive network of tech-enabled indigenous partners, including hundreds of remote field monitors who, under normal circumstances, are working to detect and stop illegal deforestation. These networks and individuals are now adapting their skills and tools to capture critical health information in communities. Indigenous data managers  are now compiling valuable health care information and keeping state agencies abreast of new outbreaks. Meanwhile, indigenous leaders and administrators – accustomed to pursuing criminal cases and working the levers of regional governments to stop illegal deforestation – are using their skills, connections, and political influence to improve government and international responses to COVID-19 and ongoing deforestation threats.

Deforestation During Coronavirus

 Illegal loggers and miners are not staying home and observing social distance, which is why we are also addressing the numerous secondary effects of the virus, such as increased logging, mining and illegal border crossings that threaten indigenous livelihoods every bit as much as the virus itself. 

With inspections and other activities on hold due to the pandemic, illegal actors are exploiting a dramatic drop in official inspections and other activities on hold due to the pandemic. In Brazil, this drop in enforcement has been compounded by a weakening of environmental regulations that predates the pandemic. Meanwhile, illegal deforestation and mining is increasing exponentially during this crisis, posing new levels of public health and environmental threat to indigenous territories.

Partner Initiatives

In addition to coordinating local responses, Rainforest Foundation US, our allies and partners are spearheading several large initiatives to scale coronavirus responses across the region:

  1. Amazon Emergency Fund – A collaboration between Rainforest Foundation US, Amazon Watch, COICA and dozens of other allies and partners to raise and distribute funding directly to indigenous communities impacted by the coronavirus.
  2. SOS Rainforest Live – A collaboration between the three Rainforest Foundations (US, UK and Norway) to work with artists, scientists and indigenous leaders to secure direct funding for indigenous groups impacted by the coronavirus.
  3. COVID-19 response in Peru – A new partnership among USAID, CEDRO Peru, and Rainforest Foundation US, which will regularly deliver health information and related messages to vulnerable indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon Departments of Loreto and Ucayali. At the same time, this project will engage existing RFUS networks to leverage instant data from communities as they report the impacts of the  COVID-19 crisis to regional organizations and the government, generating support and visibility. This is a two-year program that coordinates support among the  Peruvian government, indigenous organizations, and other allies to prevent, mitigate and respond to immediate needs.
  4. Remote monitoring and advocacy – An effort by Rainforest Foundation US and partners in Peru, Guyana, Brazil and Central America to conduct expanded monitoring of illegal activity in indigenous territories – using a combination of near-real-time satellite data, high resolution imagery and on-the-ground networks – while travel to many of these areas is restricted due to coronavirus.
  5. Fora Garimpo, Fora Covid (Miners Out, COVID Out) Campaign – A major campaign spearheaded by Yanomami organizations to remove the roughly 20,000 illegal miners operating in the Yanomami Territory in northern Brazil. COVID-19 has been spreading in communities closest to illegal mining areas, with potentially devastating results. RFUS is collaborating on the campaign together with partners and allies Hutukara Yanomami Association, Instituto Socioambiental, Survival International, Amazon Watch and many others. Sign the petition here: www.minersoutcovidout.org/
  6. Supporting economic sustainability in the COVID-19 crisis: RFUS is helping communities develop and implement sustainable revenue generating activities within the parameters of health protocols, such as reforestation with income generating species and securing community level payments for their forest protection using blockchain technology. 

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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.

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 moc.l1675712108iamg@1675712108dnufy1675712108cnegr1675712108emeno1675712108zama1675712108

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Murder of Two Yanomami by Illegal Miners Heightens Fears of Renewed Cycle of Violence in the Brazilian Amazon

Yanomami People

Murder of Two Yanomami by Illegal Miners Heightens Fears of Renewed Cycle of Violence in the Brazilian Amazon

Yanomami People
Photo by Victor Morayama/ISA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 30, 2020

MEDIA CONTACTS
Maryka Paquette: gro.y1675712108nffr@1675712108etteu1675712108qapm1675712108 or +1 (619) 517-4126
Camila Rossi: gro.h1675712108ctawn1675712108ozama1675712108@isso1675712108rc1675712108 or +55 11 98152 8476
Instituto Socioambiental (ISA): gro.l1675712108atnei1675712108bmaoi1675712108cos@a1675712108rreta1675712108niram1675712108
Survival International: gro.l1675712108anoit1675712108anret1675712108nilav1675712108ivrus1675712108@sser1675712108p1675712108 or +44 (0) 7841 029 289

The Indigenous Hutukara Yanomami Association demands a rigorous investigation of the murders and reinforces the need for the Brazilian government to immediately expel more than 20,000 miners illegally operating on Yanomami land.

Roraima, Brazil – In a statement denouncing the murder of two Yanomami people by armed illegal gold miners on protected Indigenous territory, the Hutukara Yanomami Association raised fears that land invaders are driving a disastrous cycle that echos past genocidal violence.

According to an anonymous Yanomami witness during the first half of June, in the vicinity of Xaruna community in the Brazilian state of Roraima, a group of Yanomami visited an illegal mining camp to request food. Having received less food than requested, the witness claims they complained to the miners, who then pursued the group with firearms and murdered two of them.

“The murder of two more Yanomami by miners must be rigorously investigated and reinforces the need for the Brazilian State to act urgently and immediately remove all the miners who are illegally exploiting the Yanomami Territory and harassing and assaulting the indigenous communities who live there. We call on the authorities to take all necessary measures to stop the mining which continues taking Yanomami lives,” says the Hutukara statement. “We fear that the families of the murdered Yanomami will decide to retaliate against the miners, following the Yanomami culture’s system of justice, which could lead to a cycle of violence that will result in a tragedy.”

For decades, the Yanomami have resisted the invasion of illegal miners on their lands, but conflicts between communities and illegal gold miners remain frequent. It is estimated that more than 20,000 illegal miners currently operate within Yanomami Indigenous Territory.

Under the Bolsonaro government’s ongoing encouragement of Indigenous land invasions, the number of miners in the region has dramatically increased and native communities fear for their safety. This month’s murders are not an isolated problem and are likely to recur in other areas affected by illegal mining on Yanomami lands.

The Hutukara statement notes that a similar situation resulted in the Haximu massacre in 1993, when 16 Yanomami from the community of Haximu were murdered by miners, in the first case of genocide recognized by the Brazilian state. Twenty-seven years after the massacre, the Yanomami once again face widespread invasions of their lands.

The Yanomami witness account describes a cyclical, fraught relationship between the Yanomami and miners ever since the Indigenous territory suffered invasions of more than 40,000 wildcat miners in the 1980s. At first, miners arrive in small numbers in a community’s territory and seek friendly relations with the Yanomami, offering food and goods from the city. As the number of miners increases and their settlement becomes permanent, they feel at ease in the territory and come to regard the Yanomami as a nuisance. The Yanomami’s requests for merchandise from the city are ignored and relations become tense.

With the advance of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum launched the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign, which has already collected 300,000 signatures for the immediate withdrawal of illegal miners from the Yanomami Territory. On June 16, Hutukara and the National Human Rights Council filed a request for precautionary measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The measure is intended to ensure that the Brazilian government takes concrete measures to protect the Yanomami.

The campaign is supported by the Association of Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples (APIB), the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Survival International, Greenpeace Brazil, Conectas Human Rights, Amnesty International Brazil, Amazon Cooperation Network (RCA), Igarapé Institute, Rainforest Foundation US, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and Amazon Watch.

Rainforest Foundation US was founded 30 years ago to promote the rights of indigenous peoples living in the rainforest and to support them and other forest communities in their effort to protect and defend their territories.

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SOS Rainforest Livestream to Protect Indigenous Peoples and the Planet

SOS Rainforest Livestream to Protect Indigenous Peoples and the Planet

Musicians, indigenous peoples, activists, and celebrities come together to raise awareness and funds for indigenous communities facing twin existential threats from Covid-19 and stepped up tropical rainforest destruction.

On June 21, major international artists will join in solidarity with indigenous peoples for an international livestream to raise awareness and support for indigenous forest guardians who are under extreme threat from the coronavirus. Top recording artists from around the world will be joined by indigenous leaders and environmental activists to draw attention and much needed funds to support the fight of indigenous communities against the twin existential threats they face: Covid-19 and tropical rainforest destruction.

The star-studded event includes performers such as UK rock star Sting (founder of Rainforest Foundation), Manú Chao, Alan Parson, Caribbean sensation OMI, and many other musicians from Latin America like Maná, Aterciopelados, Carlos Vivés, Caetano Velos, and Gilberto Gil. Actress Oona Chaplin, and model and activist Gisele Bündchen, will also be present. For a full list, please visit SOS Rainforest Live! The event will livestream on YouTube and TikTok.

In addition to broadcasting the livestream, TikTok, the platform for short mobile videos, will also host a dance challenge through which they hope to raise and donate up to $300,000 to the SOS Rainforest Live! event. The TikTok-hosted campaign will use the hashtag #sosrainforestchallenge across Latin America. See the TikTok dance.

Why it’s important to protect indigenous peoples and tropical rainforests
Rainforest destruction is a key driver of global emissions, biodiversity loss, and is increasingly linked to disease outbreaks, which is why protecting these forests is more critical than ever. Last summer, raging fires in the Amazon caught the attention of the world. This summer’s, fire season is expected to be worse, which is why  supporting indigenous communities must be an international priority.

Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus due to lower immunity to diseases and lack of access to adequate health care. But while the world is looking elsewhere, many threatened tropical rainforests are witnessing a surge of destruction and land invasions from illegal miners and loggers – further exposing local communities to the virus and exacerbating the climate crisis.

SOS Rainforest LIVE is organized by the Rainforest Foundation of Norway, UK and the US.

Tune in Sunday, June 21st at 3PM ET on YouTube and TikTok.

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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.

Miners Out, COVID-19 Out: The Yanomami and Ye’Kwana People of the Brazilian Amazon Launch a Global Campaign to Expel Miners From Their Territory

Miners Out, COVID-19 Out: The Yanomami and Ye’Kwana People of the Brazilian Amazon Launch a Global Campaign to Expel Miners From Their Territory

Miners Out Petition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 11, 2020

MEDIA CONTACTS
Maryka Paquette: gro.y1675712108nffr@1675712108etteu1675712108qapm1675712108 or +1.619.517.4126
Camila Rossi: gro.h1675712108ctawn1675712108ozama1675712108@isso1675712108rc1675712108 or +55.11.98152.8476

Indigenous leaders demand the urgent removal of 20,000 illegal gold miners from their lands to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through their villages. The disease could infect up to 40% of Yanomami communities if wildcat mining remains, threatening a new ethnocide.

Roraima State, Brazil – In a new global campaign led by a coalition of Yanomami and Ye’kwana organizations, indigenous leaders define the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign as “a cry for help against an old nightmare which has turned even more deadly.”  Launching internationally today, the campaign demands that the Brazilian government immediately remove more than 20,000 gold miners currently operating illegally in Yanomami territory.

“We are following the spread of COVID-19 in our land and are very saddened by the first deaths of the Yanomami. Our shamans are working non-stop against the xawara,” said Dario Kopenawa Yanomami, a young leader of his people and vice president of the Hutukara Yanomami Association. “Xawara” is the Yanomami word for epidemics brought by outsiders. “We will fight and resist. But we need support from the Brazilian people and people all over the world,” said Dario, who is the son of Davi Kopenawa, a Yanomami leader and one of the best-known shamans in the Amazon.

The Ye’kwana is a smaller indigenous group that lives alongside the Yanomami land. Together they comprise a total of 27,000 people dispersed across one of Brazil’s largest indigenous reserves that stretches between the Roraima and Amazonas states, straddling Venezuela’s border.

The mortality rate from COVID-19 for indigenous people is double the rate of the rest of the Brazilian population. So far, more than 2,900 indigenous people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and almost 260 have died according to the Association of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (APIB). The disease has already killed four Yanomami and there are 95 more confirmed cases among the Yanomami and Ye’kwana.

Roughly half of the Yanomami territory’s population lives in communities less than five kilometers (3 miles) from an illegal mining site. A new study by Brazilian NGO Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) calculates possible transmission rate scenarios for those villages (1). According to their study, in one region of the Yanomami territory, a single case of COVID-19 could result in 962 new cases after 120 days. In the worst-case scenario, 5,603 Yanomami – 40% of the population in those communities – could become infected with the virus. The study also estimates that if the illegal miners remain, between 207 and 896 Yanomami could die as a result of COVID-19 – up to 6.4% of the population in those areas. The Yanomami face a real risk of an ethnocide.

To avert a tragedy, the Forum of Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leaders (2) is asking the Brazilian public and the global community to sign a petition to pressure Brazilian authorities to mobilize efforts for the complete and immediate removal of miners from their territory. Dario, a Yanomami leader, is the principal voice of the campaign and aims to mobilize national and global support for this critical cause.

Unfortunately, the spread of deadly diseases carried by gold miners and other invaders is not a new threat for the Yanomami. In the 1970s and 80s, the opening of roads and a major gold rush caused the death of 13% of the Yanomami population, from diseases like malaria and measles. Many elders still carry the pain of that memory; it is a part of Yanomami history. It is unfathomable that right now, thousands of miners are operating with impunity in the territory potentially exposing an entire people to COVID19, of an already acutely vulnerable population due to systemic racism and lack of access to public health resources.

According to the ISA report, the health centers that serve the Yanomami are among the least equipped in all of Brazil, as they have the lowest availability of beds and ventilators. The health centers closest to the miners invading their territory were scored worst of all (3). There are no pulmonary ventilators in most Amazonian municipalities. The average distance between indigenous villages and the nearest intensive care unit (ICU) in Brazil is 315 kilometers (196 miles), and for 10% of villages, that distance is between 700-1,079 kilometers (430- 670 miles). Yanomami people will have to travel almost three hours by plane to get to Boa Vista if they need an ICU with a ventilator. There are no land or river connections between the village and the capital of Roraima (4).

The campaign is supported by the Association of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil (APIB), Coordination of Indigenous Organizations in the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), Survival International, Greenpeace Brazil, Conectas Human Rights, Amnesty International Brazil, Amazon Cooperation Network (RCA), Igarapé Institute, Rainforest Foundation US, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and Amazon Watch.

Learn more and participate at MinersOutCovidOut.org

Rainforest Foundation US was founded 30 years ago to promote the rights of indigenous peoples living in the rainforest and to support them and other forest communities in their effort to protect and defend their territories. 

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Notes

(1) The study was carried out by the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) in partnership with the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), and reviewed by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation for Public Health (Fiocruz).

(2) The Yanomami and Ye’kwana Leadership Forum is a coalition of organizations including Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), Wanasseduume Ye’kwana Association (SEDUUME), Kumirayoma Yanomami Women’s Association (AMYK), Texoli Ninam Association of Roraima (TANER) and the Yanomami Association of the Cauaburis River and Tributaries (AYRCA).

(3) The study looked at a number of critical health units in the territory, estimating how the transmission of the disease in these places could happen. For example, in Surucucu, a representative of the District Council for Indigenous Health (Condisi) who tested positive for Covid-19 visited the area covered by the health unit. In the worst-case scenario, assuming the most intense transmission, this single case in the region could result in 962 new cases after 120 days. If nothing were done, that means that 39% of the population served by the health post would be infected. If the mortality rate is twice as high as in the non-indigenous population, there would be between 35 and 153 deaths, using the rates in Roraima and Amazonas states respectively.

(4) According to a study by the non-profit InfoAmazonia.

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The Amazon Emergency Fund (AEF) received a $2 million donation from the French Government to deliver COVID-19 relief to indigenous communities.

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SOS Rainforest Live: Major Artists Unite in Support of Indigenous Guardians of the Rainforests Threatened by the COVID-19 Pandemic

SOS Rainforest Live: Major Artists Unite in Support of Indigenous Guardians of the Rainforests Threatened by the COVID-19 Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2020

Updated as of June 17, 2020

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Kim Chaix:gro.y1675712108nffr@1675712108xiahc1675712108k 1675712108 or +1.917.378.8670
Other media contacts listed below

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – On June 21st, major international artists will join in solidarity with indigenous peoples for a livestream concert to raise awareness and support for indigenous forest guardians under extreme threat from the coronavirus.

Participating artists include Sting (Rainforest Foundation Founder), Gilberto Gil, Caetano, Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Carlinhos Brown, Aurora, Jorge Drexler, Ana Vitoria, Manu Gavassi, Anitta, Sandy, Maná, Seu Jorge, Manu Chao, Gaby Amarantos, Tony Garrido and Maria Gadú (1). They will be joined by indigenous leaders, activists and celebrities including Actress Oona Chaplin, model and activist Gisele Bündchen, photographer Sebastião Salgado, Expert Climatologist Antonio Nobre, and Actor, Comedian and Writer Stephen Fry (2). For a full list, please visit SOSRainforestLive.org

All net proceeds from the event will go directly towards the COVID-19 relief effort in rainforest areas and on projects and advocacy to support indigenous and local communities in their efforts to protect their environment (3).

The livestream will be broadcast on TikTokYouTube and other platforms in Brazil and around the world: 3:00pm New York City and Manaus, 16h00 São Paulo, 20h00 London and 21h00 Oslo.

In addition to broadcasting the livestream, TikTok, the platform for short cell phone videos, has committed to donate up to $300,000 to the SOS Rainforest LIVE event through livestream viewership and by hosting a dance challenge following an official SOS Rainforest Dance. All dance videos uploaded to the platform between 21-28 June 2020 that include the hashtag #SOSRainforestChallenge will qualify. See more dances on Rainforest Foundation’s TikTok account.

With destruction of tropical rainforests a key driver of global emissions, biodiversity loss and increasingly linked to disease outbreaks, protecting these forests is more critical than ever. Evidence is building that the best way to achieve this is to empower indigenous peoples and other forest guardians to secure, manage and protect the rainforests they call home (4).

But while the world is looking elsewhere, many areas are witnessing a surge of forest destruction and land invasions from illegal miners and loggers – further exposing local communities to COVID-19 and exacerbating the climate crisis.

Suzanne Pelletier, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation US, said “indigenous peoples are among the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus due to their greater susceptibility to respiratory and viral diseases and poor access to adequate medical facilities. Yet they are the ones protecting the ecosystems that safeguard the world from the rise of major pandemics in the first place. We must join together to support indigenous peoples now.” 

SOS Rainforest LIVE is being organized by Rainforest Foundation Norway, UK and the US. The event is being produced by Pedro Paulo Carneiro (general director), Analuisa Anjos (executive producer), with Ivan Sawyer (production assistant), Maryus Rydal (production assistant) and Lucas Tomas Neves (transmission coordinator).

Learn more and participate at: SOSRainforestLive.org

Rainforest Foundation was founded 30 years ago to promote the rights of indigenous peoples living in the rainforest and to support them and other forest communities in their effort to protect and defend their territories. Since its founding, the Rainforest Foundations of Norway, the UK and the US have together supported indigenous peoples’ efforts to protect more than 72 million hectares across four continents.

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Notes

(1) SOS Rainforest LIVE will include featured artists such as Sting, one of the founders of the Rainforest Foundation, Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Carlinhos Brown, Aurora, Jorge Drexler, Ana Vitoria, Manu Gavassi, Anitta, Sandy, Maná, Seu Jorge, Mathilda Holmer, Maria Gadu, Tony Garrido, Aurora, Aterciopelados, Manu Chao, Allan Parsons, Gaby Amarantos, Tropkillas + Duda Beat + Afro B, Lyla June, Lisa Simone, Jupiter and Okwes, Sandrayati, OMI, Dj Soul Slinger and Jorge Mautner, Evandro Mesquita, George Israel, Vanessa Falabella and Zeca Baleiro.

(2) SOS Rainforest LIVE will have the distinguished presence of indigenous peoples’ and other environmental defenders from the world’s major tropical rainforests including : Sonia Guajajara from the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB) and Dario Kopenawa Yanomami from Hutukara Associação Yamomami from Brazil and Rukka Sombolinggi of the Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), among others. The event will also feature messages from experts such as renowned climatologist Antonio Nobre and high-profile figures such as photographer Sebastião Salgado and Wagner Moura. The event will be co-hosted by Oona Chaplin of Game of Thrones and Avatar, and Brazilians Letícia Sabatella, Camila Pitanga, Maria Gadu and Toni Garrido.

(3) Indigenous and NGO partners include: The Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB), the Hutukara Associação Yanomami, Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), and Conselho Indígena de Roraima (CIR) in Brazil; Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN); DRC’s APEM and Cameroon’s APIFED; and Peru’s Organización Regional de los Pueblos Indígenas del Oriente (ORPIO).

(4) See for example: https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Stockholm-Prorities-and-Opportunities-Brief.pdf

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Didier Devers
Chief of Party – USAID Guatemala
gro.y1675712108nffr@1675712108sreve1675712108dd1675712108

Didier has been coordinating the USAID-funded B’atz project since joining Rainforest Foundation US in April 2022. He holds a Master’s in Applied Anthropology and a Bachelor’s in Geography. Before joining the organization, Didier worked for 12 years in Central and South America on issues of transparency, legality, governance, and managing stakeholders’ processes in the environmental sector. Prior to that he worked on similar issues in Central Africa. He speaks French, Spanish, and English, and is based in Guatemala.