Amazon Emergency Action Fund (COVID-19) To Support Indigenous Territories

Amazon Emergency Action Fund (COVID-19) To Support Indigenous Territories

It's high time we protect the guardians of the world's largest rainforest.

Indigenous communities and organisations in Ecuador are launching an “Amazon Emergency Action Fund (COVID-19)” as the coronavirus outbreak shows no signs of levelling off. The fund aims to raise urgent support internationally so as to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus into indigenous territories, and to guarantee indigenous peoples’ survival.

A native woman in a village deep in the Amazon rainforest has contracted the novel coronavirus, the first among new cases reported in frontier towns bordering indigenous lands in the Amazon. 

Ecuador has recorded 3,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 172 deaths to date. It is the second hardest hit country in Latin America after Brazil, which is currently facing a challenging crisis as the country reports a staggering 12,323 cases and 566 deaths. 

As Ecuador struggles to grapple with the crisis in the country, nations across the region are blockading entrances to their territories, a voluntary isolation to steer clear of the disease, and are appealing for food and medical supplies. 

Indigenous people –who have been protecting the Amazon for thousands of years – are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases as a result of the low standard of health services provided by the government. Especially at risk are indigenous elders, the guardians of thousands of years of ancestral knowledge about the Amazon rainforest and how to protect it. It would be an annihilation of the 500,000 indigenous peoples, who currently reside in Ecuador’s Amazon, if contagion spreads.

“We indigenous peoples don’t have guarantees for our lives in the midst of this nationwide and global crisis. If this pandemic reaches our communities, it will be the end of us as indigenous peoples. There are no hospitals near our communities, we don’t have access to information or basic services, and the geographic isolation of our territories means that this pandemic could be fatal for our people,” remarked Jaime Vargas, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE).

Last week, indigenous and human rights organisations in Ecuador sent a letter of concern urging the government to implement concrete, culturally adequate and effective protection measures in order to guarantee the fulfilment of indigenous peoples’ rights to life, integrity, access to health and self-determination during this health emergency – but to no avail.

Proceeds from the “Amazon Emergency Action Fund (COVID-19)” will go towards supporting indigenous efforts in the Amazon to contain the potentially devastating threat of coronavirus. This includes providing food, supplies and medical attention, translating critical information into native languages, and lobbying before the government for better planning and resourcing of the country’s indigenous population.

“The Amazon’s indigenous peoples keep the rest of the world safe year-round by guarding and protecting the rainforest from destructive logging, drilling, mining and other illegal activity in their territories. Now we urgently need the global community to rally behind them, as they try to protect themselves from this invasive disease threatening their physical and cultural survival. Thousands of lives and the very health of our climate depend on what we do now to help,” urges Mitch Anderson, Executive Director of Amazon Frontlines.

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Ifah Sakinah
Ifah Sakinah

Sakinah has a discerning palate and an innate desire to satisfy her inner curiosity. While she hasn't been everywhere, it's definitely on her list.