A 15-year-old boy from an isolated Amazonian tribe who tested positive for Covid-19 has died, raising concerns among researchers about the coronavirus’ impact on indigenous people in Brazil.
According to Brazil’s Ministry of Health, the boy identified as Alvanei Xirixan, who is a Yanomami from the village of Rehebe on the Uraricoera River, died on Thursday, CNN reports.
He had been in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Roraima General Hospital in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state, since April 3.
Though CNN reported that the hospital has not revealed the cause of his death, Brazil’s health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, during a press conference on Wednesday said that the boy had tested positive for Covid-19.
Today we had a confirmed case in the Yanomami, which concerns us a lot. This is a government concern for indigenous health.
Mandetta expressed that the government plans to build a field hospital for tribes that are vulnerable to contagion as it is extremely concerned about the Indigenous communities.
Anthropologists and health experts, however, warn that coronavirus could have devastating effects on Brazil’s 850,000 indigenous people, who are vulnerable to external diseases and whose lifestyle in tribal villages rules out social distancing.
The Yanomami live in the rainforests and mountains of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela, according to Survival International, an organization that seeks to protect indigenous rights.
More than 26,000 Yanomami live on Brazil‘s border with Venezuela on a reservation the size of Portugal. Their lands have been invaded for years by thousands of illegal gold miners who brought measles and other illnesses fatal to the tribe.
Another organization, Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) said the virus had spread among the Yanomami through miners who had illegally entered indigenous territory.
ISA, in a statement on its website, said;
Today, without a doubt, the main vector for the spread of COVID-19 inside the Yanomami Indigenous Territory is the more than 20,000 illegal miners that go in and out of the territory without any control.
It explained that;
The Yanomami, as many other indigenous people, are among the groups most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 and should be urgently protected, under the risk of genocide with the complicity of the Brazilian State.
Reports say the villagers with coronavirus symptoms were being isolated and test kits were rushed to the reservation.
The Association of the Indigenous People of Brazil (APIB) said the boy was the third indigenous person to die of Covid-19 now sweeping Brazil with force.
Two previous deaths were of Indigenous people who were living in urban areas, including an 87-year-old woman in Para state and man in Manaus.
Brazil has recorded more than 20,964 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and more than 1,141 deaths as of Sunday, according to Worldometers.