AP

Health crisis leads scores of Yanomami to roam the streets

Feb 10, 2023, 8:35 PM | Updated: 8:59 pm

Yanomami Indigenous people cook food on a fire in Boa Vista, Roraima state, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. ...

Yanomami Indigenous people cook food on a fire in Boa Vista, Roraima state, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. Many Yanomami Indigenous are living in the streets after years of neglect during the previous government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro led to a health crisis among the Yanomami while gold miners swarmed illegally into their territory. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros)

(AP Photo/Edmar Barros)

BOA VISTA, Brazil (AP) — From a distance, the small group lying on the sidewalk outside the city market could be confused with hundreds of homeless people spread through Boa Vista.

But they are Yanomami, an Indigenous people from the Amazon rainforest who traditionally live in relative isolation. Years of neglect during the previous government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro led to a health crisis that got worse while illegal gold miners swarmed into their territory. Dozens of Yanomami ended up roaming in the region’s largest city.

The eldest ones in a group living in Boa Vista’s food market are a couple — Oma Yanomami, 46, and Bonita Yanomami, 35. Both are from the Koroasipiitheri community, only accessible by air. In September, they were medivaced to Boa Vista to accompany their 3-year-old son, who was ill with malaria.

Initially, they stayed in the Indigenous Health House known as Casai, a federal facility on the outskirts of Boa Vista, a sprawling city of 440,000 people and capital of Roraima state. But in the first few days, the family left the facility and began living on the streets.

“It was too crowded,” Oma Yanomami told The Associated Press Thursday in broken Portuguese while sitting on the dirty sidewalk. Beside him, his wife was asleep despite the heavy car traffic nearby. Both had sustained bruises and appeared in poor health.

A report published this week by the Ministry of Health paints a grim picture of Casai, which was built to host Yanomami under treatment and their relatives. Its capacity is 200 people, but it harbors many as 700, representing 2% of the Yanomami population. The figure doesn’t include those hospitalized, including several children with severe malnutrition.

“The bathrooms are unhealthy, and the dining areas are insufficient and unpleasant. In addition, the food was insufficient until a few months ago,” the report says. “The Yanomami lack space to prepare their food and other activities, so at night, there are several drunken people and reports of violence and car hit-and-runs.”

According to the report, 150 Yanomami are eligible to return to their villages, but the wait for a place on a return flight can be very long — 10 years in one extreme case.

An estimated 30,000 Yanomami people live in Brazil’s largest Indigenous territory, which covers an area roughly the size of Portugal and stretches across Roraima and Amazonas states in the northwest corner of Brazil’s Amazon.

Life in the streets took its toll on Oma and Bonita Yanomami. Their son soon contracted pneumonia, while his parents fell into drinking sprees. Health workers found out about the situation and took the baby to a local hospital. There, he was admitted as “indigent,” which put him on the adoption path without the parents’ consent.

For four months, the couple did not see their child. Then social workers affiliated with the Indigenous movement intervened to get them inside to visit. The future of the child now hinges on a judicial order.

It is not uncommon to meet Yanomami in the streets of Boa Vista, most with drinking problems. Some go back to Casai during the night, while others end up under viaducts.

Their life is rough. Two weeks ago, a Yanomami woman gave birth on a sidewalk. On Thursday, a Yanomami man died several days after being injured in a fight inside a prison, according to the State Secretary of Justice. There are 269 Indigenous inmates in Roraima of various peoples.

In January, the federal government, led by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, declared a public health emergency for the Yanomami people. Since then, military doctors treated over 1,000 people in a field hospital in Boa Vista, and 4,000 food baskets were distributed in the vast territory.

In parallel, security forces started to destroy equipment and control entry of illegal gold miners, estimated at 20,000 people. As a result, dozens have decided to leave the Indigenous territory, while many others keep mining gold.

The Indigenous organizations now want the Yanomami child, now four years old, to be returned to his parents so they can board a plane and go back to Koroasipiitheri, where six siblings are waiting for them.

___

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

3 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

4 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

11 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

12 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

14 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

Health crisis leads scores of Yanomami to roam the streets