AMERICA/BRAZIL - In a Guarani Indian reserve 290 children suffer from acute malnutrition and 35% of those under age six is underfed. The death of six Guarani children brings to the fore the drama of Brazil’s forgotten people

Wednesday, 2 March 2005

Rome (Fides Service) - The deaths of six children caused by hunger in a Guarani Indian reserve bring to the fore the tragedy of Indians peoples in Brazil and the inefficiency of social assistance programmes.
In the Dourados Reserve in the Mato Grosso do Sul region 11,000 Guarani live in an area of 3,000 hectares without the minimum conditions for working the land and without even basic healthcare.
The Bishops’ Commission for Pastoral Care of Children says the situation is serious. The plots of land given to each family is small and deteriorated. At least 290 suffer acute malnutrition and 35% of children under six is undernourished. 50% of the people living at the Dourados reserve is under 18 and has no prospects for work.
The region of Mato Grosso do Sul which borders on Bolivia and Paraguay is one of Brazil’s “granaries” and it produces meat, milk, soya, maize and sugarcane, the country’s main sectors of export.
The Guarani claim ownership of some large farms close to the reserve. Most Indians work in the local sugarcane plantations and alcohol factories for 100 dollars a month.
It is fundamental to start a programme of technical and educational assistance to encourage the production of food.
There were once Guarani Indians in Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay as well as south Brazil. Today they are confined to the Mato Grosso do Sul region of Brazil. (AP) (2/3/2005 Agenzia Fides; Righe:23; Parole:269)