Indigenous Tribes Threatened by COVID-19

Indigenous Tribes Threatened by COVID-19

( – Many Americans are lucky to have the resources and infrastructure needed to stay safe from COVID-19. Things are tough right now, but it’s easy to take supermarkets, health care, and a home for granted. Not all civilizations have the same access to essential goods and services.

In fact, it’s a lack of medicine and other essentials putting indigenous tribes at risk of extinction during the pandemic. Tribes already struggle with foreign illnesses, and this virus could wipe out indigenous populations before a cure is ever found.

The Legacy of Foreign Illnesses

Historically speaking, the introduction of viruses to indigenous tribes hasn’t ended well. English explorer John Hemming gifted illnesses to the Amazonian tribes he encountered. Eventually, every Brazillian tribe was hit by a disease they were unable to cure with their traditional medicines.

Western settlers and explorers, on the other hand, had the diseases before and knew how to treat them, for the most part. Those treatments weren’t always available to the various tribes they had interactions with. Even now, the fact that countless indigenous tribes are so geographically remote makes receiving modern healthcare a challenge, if not downright impossible.

Native populations across the globe could die as they wait for a mass-produced COVID-19 vaccine in roughly one-and-a-half years.

How COVID-19 Affects Indigenous Populations

According to Leila Salazar-López, the executive director of the advocacy group Amazon Watch, the resources and infrastructure to treat Amazonian tribes simply don’t exist. Hospitals and medical supplies don’t even have the capabilities to treat the illness. There’s also no easy way to deliver supplies if they existed because there are few, if any, emergency canoes or helicopters.

There are already reports of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths in the larger Amazonian states. Luckily, Salazar-López is not aware of any cases in more remote villages. With no vaccine and extremely limited ways to treat the disease, communities are barricading entrances to their lands to avoid becoming infected.

That’s not cutting it, though. A teenage boy from an isolated Amazon tribe, the Yanomami, was found dead and tested positive for COVID-19. The cause of the infection was a mystery until the Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) stated that it was likely spread by one of 20,000 illegal miners.

The miners who trespass onto indigenous lands to “obtain” valuable resources are the most likely source of infection.

Indigenous tribes aren’t just concerned about the spread of COVID-19; they’re trying to avoid extinction. Unfortunately, there’s little that anyone can do until a vaccine is developed and produced on a global scale. Until then, the best way to avoid the potential genocide of native tribes is to leave them alone.

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