Coronavirus advances in indigenous communities: coffins are missing


Indigenous leaders from Maranhão communities landed this week in Brasilia in search of help from Brazilian authorities to combat the pandemic of the new coronavirus in the villages. In desperate measure, the representatives of the Guajajara peoples are trying to get government support to curb Covid-19’s progress in the region.

The report spoke to the indigenous people who cry out for help from the Ministry of Health. The reports report problems such as lack of medicines, overdue medicines, poor distribution of resources and personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition, representatives denounce a low number of professionals to serve the population.

In some places, a coffin is missing to bury the victims of the virus.


According to an epidemiological bulletin released by the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai), until this Friday (10/16), 30,745 indigenous people were infected with the new coronavirus. Since the pandemic settled in the villages, 462 Indians have died for Covid-19.

The indigenous communities in Maranhão are among the hardest hit by the pandemic: there were 1,533 cases and 27 deaths by Covid-19. The state of Mato Grosso do Sul leads the sad statics, with 60 deaths and more than 2,400 cases.

“Our relatives are dying”

To Metropolises, the president of the Supreme Council of Caciques Guajajara, Raimundo Carlos da Silva Guajajara, affirmed that the current scenario in the indigenous communities is one of “abandonment”. “We are out of medicine, without assistance and are promoting themselves, saying that they are taking care of us. They receive billionaire transfers, but there is no investment in us. Our relatives are dying ”, he criticizes.

The representative narrates that his father is among the victims of the disease in indigenous communities. “I lost my father to this pandemic and they never even paid him a coffin. I didn’t see my father being buried, he was taken from the hospital straight to the cemetery. The pandemic is advancing, it is killing our relatives ”.

Raimundo is one of the leaders of Aldeia Belo Sonho Buritirana, in the Bananal region of Maranhão. According to him, the region is home to 47 villages with almost 4,000 Indians. The number of health professionals dedicated to the exclusive care of indigenous people is not enough to meet the entire demand.

“There are two nursing technicians for 4 thousand Indians. Testing takes place only when the Army appears and, even so, it is not how the people are thinking, only some are tested. In the last visit, only 50 people attended. Look, there are 4,000 of us, ”says Raimundo.

Lack of coffins

Raimundo Guajajara’s speech finds resonance among indigenous people who live in the region. Born in the village of Bacurizinho, Itahy Bento Guajajara says that another problem is the lack of instruction to members of the tribes about the spread and mode of action of the virus.

“Actually, there is an omission with part of Sesai with indigenous populations. They used quarantine to be increasingly absent from their responsibilities to the people. There are billionaire values ​​that are not passed on to the Indians ”, he adds.

According to Itahy, there is no vehicle available for the emergency transport of the infected, who need to leave the villages towards the capitals in search of treatment. “My uncle passed away at 9 am, but they only took a coffin around 4 pm. He didn’t have a car to provide assistance, for emergency assistance. Family members chartered a car to be able to take the body ”.

In a video given to the report, it is possible to observe family members carrying one of the victims of Covid-19 in the back of a pickup truck and on an improvised stretcher.

Watch the recording:

Coffins are missing to bury the dead on Covid-19. “The funerary urns they distribute are of very poor quality. Unable to keep the deceased in these urns, materials of completely inferior qualities. During this period, many indigenous people were buried without a coffin ”, he denounces.

She narrates that, in serious cases, Indians are being treated with expired products. “There were cases of health professionals who distributed expired drugs, without employees. In the Bananal region, even at UBS [Unidade Básica de Saúde] it was supposed to have a nurse, a technician and health workers, it is completely empty, with no one to provide emergency care ”.

Army Relief

The situation of the Guajajara peoples in the villages of Maranhão is critical. Last week, helicopters from the Armed Forces landed in villages loaded with supplies and PPE to be distributed to the indigenous people. Health professionals were taken to assist the population.

Photo reporter Igo Estrela boarded an Army C105 freighter in Brasília, with the other military and health professionals from the mission. The plane landed in Imperatriz, Maranhão, before the party headed for the city of Grajaú, where the indigenous territory is located.

In total, 4.5 tons of inputs were sent to Guajajaras in the region. In some places, such as the Morro Branco village, a health barrier was imposed to contain the spread of the virus.


What does Sesai say?

In a note, the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health said it had allocated 14,200 health professionals to assist indigenous areas. According to the folder, 208 Units of Indigenous Primary Care (UAPI) have been installed since March, in addition to the distribution of 3,300 individual protection items.

“The Ministry of Health also reiterates that it is in constant dialogue with states and municipalities with the presence of an indigenous population to expand services of high and medium complexity, reserving specific beds for indigenous people”.

According to Saúde, there are 156 exclusive beds for indigenous people in hospitals in the cities of Manaus (AM); Belém (PA); Marabá (PA); Santarém (PA); Macapá (AP); Atalaia do Norte (AM), and Benjamin Constant (AM). And it ensures that it integrated 14 medical care missions and distribution of basic food baskets.

The National Indian Foundation (Funai) said it had invested R $ 28 million in tackling the new coronavirus. Among the measures, is the delivery of approximately 425 thousand food baskets to more than 207 thousand indigenous families.

“Funai has already delivered over 69 thousand hygiene and cleaning kits to indigenous people, in order to reinforce the adoption of preventive measures. The agency also promotes guidance actions with communities on health protocols. The foundation’s employees have been working to raise awareness among the indigenous people so that they avoid agglomerations and displacement to urban centers during the pandemic ”, says the note.

The agency argues that it has carried out 184 actions in 128 indigenous lands “to curb illicit acts”, in partnership with the Army, the Federal Police, the Battalions of the Environmental Military Police and the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama). “As part of the promotion of ethnodevelopment and autonomy, R $ 10.4 million has already been invested in actions aimed at generating income by indigenous peoples”, he concludes.


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