As the coronavirus spreads through South America, Catholic Church leaders are calling urgently for governments to protect indigenous people.
Many indigenous people, especially in the Amazon basin, live in remote areas far from medical facilities or in precarious housing on the edges of urban areas, often without water and sewer service.
“We are in a situation that reveals the deep inequalities in the country,” said Ismael Vega, director of the Amazonian Centre for Anthropology and Applied Practice, a nonprofit organisation that supports the Catholic Church in the Peruvian Amazon.
Indigenous people are at particular risk because many live in remote communities where travel by river to the nearest hospital could take days, Vega told Catholic News Service. Some villages have small health posts, but they are staffed by nurse technicians who are not prepared for the coronavirus outbreak and often lack basic medicines, he said.
Peru’s northeastern Loreto region, which has a large indigenous population in the cities of Iquitos and Nauta and in far-flung communities accessible only by river, had registered 58 of Peru’s more than 1,000 Covid-19 cases as of 31st March. Two patients had died and seven were on ventilators.
Picture: An indigenous man from the Pataxo ethnic group is seen in Sao Joaquim de Bicas, Brazil, on 25th March 2020. (CNS photo/Washington Alves, Reuters).