#MinersOutCovidOut: Yanomami leaders launch global campaign

News 22.06.2020

Amid the spread of COVID-19, a coalition of Yanomami e Ye’kwana organisations, including 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), demand the Brazilian government the urgent removal of more than 20.000 gold miners operating in their territories.

On April 9, a 15-year-old young man, Alvaney Xirixana, from the northern area of the Brazilian state of Roraima, became the first Yanomami to die from Covid-19, likely due to contact with illegal workers in the area. The episode had raised major concerns over a potential health disaster among the Yanomami tribe. To date, three Yanomami people have died from COVID-19 and dozens more are infected.

While Yanomami territories were demarcated in 1992, there are currently over 20.000 illegal miners and loggers devastating Yanomami lands. Due to the invasion of garimperos, indigenous communities throughout Brazil face intensified risk of infection, which could result in a genocide if the virus spreads further in the Amazon.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, in March 2020, on the occasion of the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Yanomami leader and 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Davi Kopenawa, called on the UN to pressure the Brazilian authorities to comply with its constitutional obligations, guarantee indigenous peoples’ rights and ensure the protection of their land. The COVID-19 pandemic increases the urgency for effective measures to be implemented.

On June 2, the Yanomami leaders launched the #MinersOutCovidOut campaign to demand the immediate expulsion of the miners from their territory, which has been the target of illegal gold mining since the 1980s, when the construction of roads and gold rushes caused the death of 13% of the Yanomami population from diseases such as flu, measles, pneumonia and malaria, against which the tribe has little or no immunity.

The campaign includes a petition calling on the Brazilian authorities to mobilise efforts for the complete and immediate removal of miners from the Yanomami territory, and a message of the leaders of the Yanomami indigenous land to the Brazilian society, through a video with historic images of the villages and native people impacted by other epidemics in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Learn more and sign the petition here: #MinersOutCovidOut.

The Right Livelihood Foundation stands in solidarity with the Yanomami people and all indigenous people in Brazil. We call on the Brazilian government to act immediately to remove and prosecute all illegal gold miners, and to effectively protect the demarcated Yanomami territory from invasions, with due respect to Brazilian law and the Constitution.

It is crucial that Brazilian authorities act quickly and diligently before it is too late.

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