A group of indigenous Sateré Mawé navigates the Brazilian Amazon on a speedboat in search of medicinal herbs to combat the symptoms of the new coronavirus.
With the health system of the state of Amazonas saturated and bureaucratic difficulties in obtaining medical care in the capital, Manaus, the indigenous people of the Waikiru village use their ancestral knowledge about nature to stay healthy and treat possible symptoms of COVID-19.
“We have been treating all the symptoms that we have been feeling with the home remedies that our ancestors came through”, tells AFP leader André Sateré Mawé, who lives with 15 families in this village, located in the rural area of Manaus, accessible by a paved street.
“Each one with a little knowledge was putting the medicines together. And we started experimenting, using each medicine to fight a symptom of the disease ”, he explains.
The recipes include infusions with carapanaúba bark (tree with anti-inflammatory properties), saracuramirá (popularly used to treat malaria) and a tea with less exotic ingredients such as jambu, garlic, lemon, mango peel, mint, ginger and honey.
Artisan Valda Ferreira de Souza, 35, is suspicious of the symptoms that contracted the new coronavirus, although none of the mawé sateré living in this village has been examined to confirm the diagnosis.
“The homemade syrup helped a lot to relieve it because I got a little tired too. It looks like it was holding my lung. I felt short of breath and took the syrup ”, reports the woman.
Rosivane Pereira da Silva, another 40-year-old artisan, helps André prepare the drinks. After boiling the ingredients, distribute them in small bottles or in larger containers, depending on the infusion.
Rosivane turned to her grandfather to find out what ingredients to use.
“I always talk to my grandfather Marcos. He is 93 years old and knows a lot about medicine. I went there to ask how I could do it ”, he explains.
According to the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai), of the Ministry of Health, 23 indigenous people died and 371 contracted the new coronavirus. But this record does not include indigenous people who live in cities.
The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), which created its own committee to monitor the situation and includes “urban” indigenous people in its count, has so far verified 102 deaths and 537 contagions throughout Brazil.
Responsible for the domestication of guaraná, the sateré mawé number more than 13,000 and live mainly on the Andirá-Marau indigenous land, on the border between the states of Amazonas and Pará.
But in recent decades, some families have settled on the outskirts of Manaus.
Because they left their original lands, they are outside the coverage of Sesai and, at the same time, face bureaucratic difficulties to be served in the SUS that serves the general population.
“It seems that they choose who to attend and leave us without attention”, complains André.
“We have learned to manage. We have learned to fight alone ”.