Vanda, the indigenous nurse who tries to save the Amazon tribes from the coronavirus

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“I started by chance,” says Vanda at the site Oliberal who went to visit her in the heart of the Amazon, in Parque das Tribos, a territory inhabited by 700 families from the 35 indigenous tribes in northern Brazil. “There was a 69-year-old man, Vincente, of piratapuia ethnicity, who had a high fever and could hardly breathe. He refused to go to the hospital in Manaus. There was no way to convince him. He had decided to stay there, in his hut, and to die. They called me. There was a need for a nurse who spoke his language, who told him clearly what would happen and that he absolutely had to move. They accompanied me, I visited the patient, the I reassured and eventually we took him to the city. I knew I had to do something right away. I looked around and saw people getting sick and then dying. Covid 19 had also come to us, brought by someone who had probably gone to buy food and medicine. “

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Today Vanderlecia Ortega dos Santos, for all Vanda, a tenacious 32-year-old nurse, the profile that recalls her indigenous Witoto origins, has become the new angel of the Amazonian tribes threatened by “genocide”, as reported by the mayor of Manaus, Arthur Virg√≠lio Neto, a fervent supporter of Bolsonaro who now accuses of “defending the legalization of underground mines in indigenous reserves instead of worrying about the health of the 44 tribes already infected”.
Every day Vanda wears gloves and a mask, a protective suit and starts her visits. A pilgrimage from house to house, on motorbikes, lances, tractors, on foot, on mules, by bicycle. Talk to everyone, visit the sick, distribute anti-inflammatories, explain how to equip artificial respirators with oxygen to be pumped by hand. “With coronavirus, time is everything,” he explains. “It is necessary to intervene immediately and often, when I arrive, the patients are at the limit. They do not breathe. They should be intubated, put in intensive care”.


Vanda, the indigenous nurse who tries to save the Amazon tribes from the coronavirus

(Reuters)

Across the country the situation is now dramatic. Brazil reported the highest daily death toll for Covid 19 in the world with 1,039 deaths. For the fifth consecutive day, it is the most affected country on the planet.




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The Pan-American Health Organization, the WHO branch of the continent, estimates that Brazil could have up to 88,000 deaths by August. The analytical study of a University of Washington goes further and speaks of 125,000 victims in the same month. Both call for a stiff lockdown immediately. All this while the World Health Organization announces that Latin America has become the world epicenter of the pandemic, where the infections are almost 800 thousand.


Vanda, the indigenous nurse who tries to save the Amazon tribes from the coronavirus

(Reuters)

In the middle of the jungle, with Manaus miles away, with hospitals already crowded and people queuing up at the reception, it is almost impossible to save those who arrive with lungs and other compromised organs. The capital of the Amazonas state is one of the major outbreaks in Brazil. Thanks to the humidity, the high population density, the conflicting messages that came from the central government, with Bolsonaro’s well-known reluctance to recognize the virus and the seriousness of the infections, this metropolis shrouded by the rainforest arrived late to his appointment with the pandemic monster.

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While the city discovered that it was now infected and the coronavirus dived among the people crowded in the open-air fish markets, among the clogged streets of cars, among the crowds that crowded the shopping centers, shops, bars and restaurants, the natives of the tribes retreated into the jungle and imposed a lockdown. There was the problem of food, supplies, diesel to move on rivers and dirt roads. We had to go back to town or phrases to bring things. Contagion was almost inevitable. Faced with the first alarms of scientists and doctors, Mayor Neto spoke of “hysteria” and “exaggerations”. But only three days later he was already decreeing a first ordinance with which he suggested the use of protections and advised “social distance”.

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Cases have increased exponentially, hospitals have been stormed, resuscitation rooms clogged. The alarm went off a week later. But it was late. On May 20, 69 days after the worldwide pandemic declaration, there were 44 indigenous tribes infiltrated by Covid 19. The Articulation of Indigenous People or Brazil (Apib), an NGO present in the area, reported 980 cases of infection and at least 125 victims. The mortality rate had reached 12.6 percent, compared to 6.4 in the Brazilian average. The Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai), linked to the Ministry of Health, spoke instead of 402 cases of infection and 23 deaths.

The difference in numbers, according to experts, is due to the fact that in the counts the government excludes the indigenous people who live in urban areas. The lack of swabs, tests and carpet checks prevents an updated photograph of the pandemic. It happens everywhere in the world, let alone in a territory without medical places and basic equipment.

The Coordination of Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations of the Brazilian State of Amazonas (Coipam) has sent a letter to the United Nations and the local Federal Prosecutor’s Office to ask for more attention on the increase in coronavirus cases and to explain that indigenous villages are in fact abandoned. “The government,” adds the Coipam coordinator, Zenilton Mauro to an Oglobo reporter, “he didn’t help us with rapid tests. We’re not getting any support. Same thing from the federal government. They can’t reach indigenous villages.”

The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, supported by the Ministry of Health, recalls that 7.8 million Brazilians live at least 4 hours away from the first resort equipped to treat coronavirus patients. The connections are made with planes used mainly by businessmen and, in normal times, by tourists. The natives are the last. Only now has a shuttle activated with the few biplanes available.




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Just look at the rest of Brazil, immersed in the heart of the pandemic that is now beating hard in Latin America. The indigenous tribes were the most defenseless and are now the most exposed. Volunteers remain to face the “genocide”. Like Vanda. A warrior against the devious and silent coronavirus troops.



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https://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2020/05/27/news/brasile_indios_amazzonia-257727002/

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