Brazil must do more to protect the Yanomami people and their territory, we warned in UN joint statement
Brazil must take action to protect Yanomami indigenous peoples, who are facing a humanitarian crisis due to years of invasion by illegal miners coupled with former President Jair Bolsonaro’s efforts to dismantle protective and healthcare structures, Right Livelihood, Survival International and the Missionary Council for Indigenous Peoples warned during the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The indigenous territory, which is home to nearly 40,000 people, extends across the northwest corner of Brazil’s Amazon. The Yanomami’s livelihood depends greatly on this land, which gold miners have been invading illegally since the 1980s.
Illegal mining in the Yanomami territory has grown 500% in the past 10 years. Former President Jair Bolsonaro purposefully overlooked this trend, and instead, weakened the healthcare and protection policies in place to safeguard them.
As a result, we warned the Council, the Yanomami people have suffered significant damage to their sources of livelihood, such as their forests, rivers, and fish, which have either been destroyed or contaminated with mercury. This has had serious consequences for their food security and health.
While the administration of current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has made efforts to remove illegal miners and protect the Amazon, these steps are not enough to solve the humanitarian crisis the Yanomami are experiencing, we warned.
Yanomami children are currently dying of malnutrition at a rate 191 times higher than the national average due to the destruction of their food sources, and thousands are infected by diseases like malaria and measles transmitted by illegal gold miners.
The Brazilian government should establish a permanent monitoring and protection program for the Yanomami Territory, developed in consultation with the affected communities, to prevent future invasions and genocide. This will hold the previous administration accountable for their human rights violations and ensure the safety and well-being of the Yanomami people.
2019 Laureate Davi Kopenawa of the Yanomami is one of the most respected indigenous leaders in Brazil. He has played an essential role in uniting indigenous communities to resist the miners and other powerful interests destroying Yanomami lands and livelihoods for financial gain.