Brazil declared a medical emergency in an indigenous territory bordering Venezuela due to an outbreak of diseases

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In the Yanomami region, cases of malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and malformations caused by the mercury used by illegal gold miners have been detected

Brazil declared a medical emergency in an indigenous territory bordering Venezuela due to an outbreak of diseases

Brazil declared a medical emergency in an indigenous territory bordering Venezuela Venezuela. (REUTERS/Adriano Machado)

Brazil's Ministry of Health declared a medical emergency in Yanomami territory, the largest indigenous reserve in the country and bordering Venezuela, following reports of children dying of malnutrition and other diseases caused by illegal gold mining.

A decree published on Friday by the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that the objective of the declaration was to restore health services for the Yanomami people that had dismantled by his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.

In the four years of Bolsonaro's presidency, 570 Yanomami children died of treatable diseases, mainly malnutrition but also malaria, diarrhea and malformations caused by the mercury used by illegal gold miners, reported the platform local news Sumauma.

Brazil declared a medical emergency in an indigenous territory bordering Venezuela due to an outbreak of diseases

Cases of malnutrition have been detected in the Yanomami region , malaria, diarrhea and malformations caused by the mercury used by gold miners. (REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli)

Lula visited a Yanomami health center on Saturday in Boa Vista, in the state of Roraima, after the publication of photos that showed children and the elderly, men and women, so thin that their ribs were visible.

“More than a humanitarian crisis, what I saw in Roraima was a genocide: a premeditated crime against the Yanomami, committed by a government insensitive to suffering,” Lula said on Twitter.

The government announced that food parcels will be sent to the reserve where some 26,000 Yanomami live in a region of tropical forest and tropical savannah the size of Portugal.

The reserve has been invaded by illegal gold miners for decades, but raids have multiplied since Bolsonaro took office in 2018 vowing to allow mining on previously protected land and offering to legalize the activity.

Brazil declared a medical emergency in an indigenous territory bordering Venezuela due to an outbreak of diseases

Lula visited a Yanomami health center on Saturday in Good View. (REUTERS)

There are also signs that organized crime has gotten involved. In recent violent incidents, men in speedboats on rivers have fired automatic weapons at indigenous peoples whose communities oppose the entry of gold miners.

Some gold miners have started leaving out of fear of police operations by the Lula government, and appear to be crossing the border into neighboring Guyana and Suriname, said Estevao Senra, a researcher at the Socio-environmental Institute, a NGO defending indigenous rights.

Lula said the new government will end illegal gold mining while cracking down on illegal deforestation in the Amazon, which reached its highest point in 15 years under the Bolsonaro government.

“We must hold the previous government accountable for allowing this situation to worsen to the point of finding adults who they weigh like children and children reduced to skin and bones,” said Sonia Guajajara, the first indigenous woman to be a cabinet minister, heading a new Ministry of Indigenous Affairs.

( With information from Reuters)

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