Hollywood Stars Pitch In To Help Indigenous People In The Amazon

Indigenous Suzana Para'í from Guarani Mbyá tribe wearing a mask looks on at Aldeia Mata Verde Bonita on May 26, 2020 in Maricá, Brazil. About 80 Guarani Mbyá indigenous who form twenty-six families in the Aldeia Mata Verde Bonita, have had their economy, which is based on the sales of handicrafts and on tourism, paralyzed due to the social isolation and quarantine of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

By Anastasia Moloney

BOGOTA, Colombia, Fri. May 29, 2020 (Thomson Reuters Foundation): – Indigenous groups in the Amazon could be wiped out by the coronavirus, one tribal leader warned on Thursday, ahead of last night’s live streamed fundraising event to feature Hollywood stars Jane Fonda, Morgan Freeman and Barbra Streisand.

About 500 indigenous people mainly living in the Amazon regions of Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador have died in the pandemic and many more are at risk because they lack access to basic healthcare, said indigenous leader Jose Gregorio Diaz.

“It’s very worrying. We are in danger of extinction,” Diaz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“There are indigenous groups living in border areas who have between 40 to 80 people. They could disappear forever,” said Diaz, who heads the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin (COICA).

Hosted by Game of Thrones actress Oona Chaplin, the two-hour event, named Artists United for Amazonia: Protecting the Protectors, also featured musicians including Carlos Santana and Peter Gabriel and environmentalists including Jane Goodall.

It will raise money for the Amazon Emergency Fund, launched in April by indigenous organizations and campaigners to help tribes respond to the pandemic.

Amazon Watch, one of the indigenous rights groups involved, said it expected several hundred thousand people to watch online last night.

“We’ll be joining artists who are known worldwide. They are heard. They have their followers. They can help us get the resources to help our communities,” said Diaz, calling it an “economic and humanitarian SOS” for the Amazon.

“There are no doctors, no equipment and no (COVID-19) tests here,” he said.

So far the Amazon Emergency Fund has raised $207,000, but organisers hope to boost that to $5 million over the next 60 days to pay for food and medical supplies and emergency evacuations for Amazon tribes hard hit by the coronavirus.

About three million indigenous people live in the nine South American countries the Amazon rainforest covers.

With little or no access to health care or basic protective equipment such as masks, many indigenous communities are isolating themselves, have closed their reserves, and are turning to traditional medicine to fight the disease, Diaz said.

“What makes indigenous populations unusually vulnerable to COVID-19 are medical, social, and environmental factors, such as a high prevalence of tuberculosis and malaria, a lack of safe drinking water, and malnutrition,” said Leila Salazar-Lopez, head of Amazon Watch.

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(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney; Editing by Claire Cozens.)