How is coronavirus affecting indigenous communities?

9 August 2020

An indigenous woman guards the entrance to her Amazon community.

Luisa, an indigenous woman, guards the entrance to her Amazon community.

We stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities this World Indigenous People's Day, and celebrate their strength and resilience in the face of continuing threats to their lives and culture.

The rights of indigenous people across Latin America are threatened by illegal and violent incursions onto their land. Now they are dealing with coronavirus against this background of conflict.

The effects of coronavirus

Indigenous peoples throughout Latin America are very vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus:

  • Remote indigenous communities can live far from hospitals and often lack the resistance to diseases that other populations have.
  • Miners and other trespassers risk exposing these vulnerable communities to coronavirus.
  • Lockdowns mean that routes to markets have been closed down and hunger is a real threat.
  • Human and land rights are being removed under the cover of coronavirus measures and while the world's attention is focused elsewhere.
Spotlight on Colombia

In the Sierra Nevada mountain range of northern Colombia, the Arhuaco, Wiwa, Kankuamo and Kogui Peoples have been forced to abandon their homes due to violent conflict over mining and other projects. Droughts, forest fires and now coronavirus mean that their food and water supplies are now dangerously low.

Our local experts are also calling for the protection of Indigenous Peoples and continue to work alongside these communities as they fight for their land and their health.

Work in the Amazon

CAFOD has been supporting Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon for over three decades and our local experts and partners have quickly adapted their work to respond to coronavirus.

With the Indigenous Amazon communities, your donations are:

  • providing emergency food 
  • giving out prevention information in local languages
  • supplying personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • supporting work with health officials to get people tested and treated in their own communities.

Support our Coronavirus Appeal

Delivering food and hygiene kits

Delivering food and hygiene kits to indigenous communities.

In the Brazilian Amazon, Indigenous groups have faced years of violence from gold miners who have illegally invaded their ancestral lands. It is estimated that there are currently 20,000 miners on Yanomami territory, putting the community at far greater risk of contracting coronavirus.

Coronavirus has already taken elderly leaders from these communities. Grandmas and Grandpas, people that are key to the continuing of their culture, knowledge of the forest, natural remedies, language and history are catching and dying from this disease. 

Today, the Yanomami People are very sad and worried, but we're going to keep fighting this important battle against coronavirus in our territories.

Dario Yanomami, the Vice-President of the Hutukara Yanomami Association

Defending the rights of indigenous peoples

Indigenous human rights defenders have had their work made even harder by coronavirus, but these brave community leaders are still promoting and protecting the human rights and land rights of their communities.

Read more about Olivia, an indigenous leader standing up for her community’s right to return to their ancestral land in Guatemala

Watch Yesica and Hector explain how they are protecting the Amazon for future generations.

Use the Novena to St Francis to pray with us for a world under threat.

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