Colombia, Brazil and Peru share a triple frontier. A frontier which exists more in the maps than in reality. A frontier crossed by the amazing Amazon River where migration processes are hardly followed and where the local communities are bonded by something more than a nationality. The Amazon rainforest, apart from being the lungs of the world for developed economies, is also a place full of contradictions. Filled with life and diversity but also neglected and ignored for years by governments. Praised just a few months back as the final frontier against climate change but abandoned today when its population is in terrible danger due of COVID-19. Today, as when the jungle was being consumed by the fires, or as it was when European conquerors carried their expeditions without any respect for any form of life, the Amazon is in S.O.S mode.
The City of Manaus in Brazil, the capital of the Amazonian state in that country, has declared that its health system has collapsed. With 12,599 positive cases, more than 1,000 deaths and a population of 2.1 million people, this city has one of the highest mortality rates in the country. Manaus is the only city in the state with intensive care units, 293 to be exact, and only eight ambulances. With more than 80 deaths per day, the cemeteries have run out of space and have started digging massive graves. With no clear policy for controlling the spread of the virus in Brazil, the country has become the world’s fourth-biggest hotspot and consequently, the surrounding countries are struggling with the imported cases. This is the case of Peru, Colombia and Paraguay.
In the Colombian Amazon, the situation is not better. The virus initially came through the border with Brazil and a first positive case was reported on April 17th. One month later, there are more than 1,000 cases and 35 deaths. This region, is one of the most ignored areas of the Colombian geography. The intensive care units are almost nonexistent, the severe cases are being translated to Bogota and the president decided that the proper way to deal with the situation was by sending military troops to protect the border.
Once again, it is the Indigenous populations who suffer the most. In the Colombian Amazon, there are 64 aboriginal communities representing 70% of the total population and from them, 146 individuals are infected and at least two have died from the virus. In Brazil, 38 different Indigenous groups have been affected by COVID-19, 446 individual cases have tested positive and 92 persons have died. In sum, in the nine countries that share a portion of the Amazon rainforest, there are 526 cases and 113 deaths.
The Indigenous Peoples living in Isolation and those in initial contact are highly vulnerable. The health vulnerability of isolated people is a risk that these communities face. For instance, an estimated 38% of the Indigenous peoples of Brazil disappeared between 1900 and 1957 largely as a result of introduced diseases. Isolated Indigenous individuals are not vulnerable for being in isolation; they are vulnerable due to the presence of outsiders who create situations where disease transmission may occur. In other words, in this context, the Indigenous communities, Indigenous living in isolation and those in initial contact, deserve that states take special and specific measures to protect their rights to self-determination, culture, health and essentially, their right to life.