Hospitalization of gravely sick Yanomami children increased last week as multiple airlifts were performed to bring kids in serious conditions to the only pediatric hospital in Boa Vista.
Since the Brazilian government declared a health emergency in the country's largest indigenous reserve, Voare, an air cab company that operates in the Amazonian state of Roraima, has been forced to multiply its flights to transport indigenous people in need of hospitalization from their villages to Boa Vista, the regional capital. The company has performed up to 16 flights in a single day due to the jump in demand.
The Yanomami Indigenous Land is located in a region of the Amazon that is difficult to access in the extreme north of the country and on the border with Venezuela.
Generally, we used to bring one patient per flight. Now there are days when we bring up to three per flight, admitted Fausto Rodrigues dos Santos, Voare's director of operations.
Rodrigues explained that a doctor and a nurse always travel on the flights and that most airlifts are requested when the state of health is already very serious.
Almost all the children rescued are transferred to the only pediatric hospital in Boa Vista. As of Friday, 59 children were admitted there, 45 of them Yanomami, most of them with severe malnutrition, acute diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria.
On January 20, the Brazilian government declared a sanitary emergency of national importance in the Yanomami Indigenous Land due to the abandonment suffered by the Indians in the last years. It announced the sending of medical and food reinforcements to the region, as well as the installation of two field hospitals, one of which began operating Friday.
The hospital, staffed by 30 doctors, pharmacists, and nurses from the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), was set up on land adjacent to the Indigenous Health Center in Boa Vista. At least 30 Yanomami people were treated there on Friday alone. According to the FAB, the intention is to gradually increase the number of people treated and meet the high demand.
The facility is to relieve the burden of the Casai healthcare center in the rural area of Boa Vista, which currently treats about 700 patients although its capacity is for 300 inpatients.
Only the most serious cases arrive at Casai since most patients are treated at the health posts in the villages of the Yanomami reserve, which were also reinforced with doctors from the Ministry of Health and where on Wednesday alone 148 patients were taken care of.
The Ministry of Indigenous Peoples estimates that at least 570 Yanomami children died in recent years due to mercury contamination, malnutrition and hunger. In 2022 alone, 99 children between 1 and 4 years of age died as a result of malaria, malnutrition, pneumonia, or diarrhea.
The Federal Police announced last week the opening of an inquest to establish whether the serious emergency in the Yanomami reserve responds to an omission, which could constitute the crime of genocide.