Brazil’s health ministry has declared a medical emergency following reports of children dying of malnutrition, other diseases caused by illegal gold mining in the Yanomami territory, the country’s largest indigenous reservation bordering Venezuela, reported Reuters.
A decree published by incoming President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday said that the aim of the declaration was to restore health services to the people of Yanomami that had been dismantled by his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.
As per an Amazon journalism platform Sumauma, citing data from FOIA, around 570 Yanomami children died of culpable diseases, mainly malnutrition during four years of Bolsonaro’s presidency. Malaria, diarrhoea and malformations caused by mercury used by wildcat gold miners were some other reasons for children’s death in the region.
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Lula visited a Yanomami health centre in Boa Vista in Roraima state on Saturday following the publication of photos showing children and elderly men and women so thin their ribs were visible.
“More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was genocide: a premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government insensitive to suffering,” Lula said on Twitter.
The government announced that food packages will be flown to the reservation with around 26,000 Yanomamis living in the region of rainforest and tropical savanna the size of Portugal.
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As per the report by Reuters, the reservation has been invaded by illegal gold miners for decades, but the incursions multiplied since Bolsonaro won office in 2018 promising to allow mining on previously protected lands and offering to legalise wildcat mining.
Lula said the new government will put an end to illegal gold mining as it moves to crack down on illegal deforestation in the Amazon, which surged to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.