Brasilia (Agenzia Fides) - "We Bishops of the Amazon, in the face of the uncontrolled spread of Covid 19 in Brazil, especially in the Amazon, express our immense concern and ask for greater attention from federal and state governments to this disease that it is spreading more and more in this region". This is how the "Note of the Bishops of the Brazilian Amazon on the situation of peoples and forests in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic" begins, published yesterday, May 4, signed by 65 Bishops and 2 Apostolic Administrators of six regions of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (CNBB), as well as by the President of the Special Episcopal Commission for the Amazon, Cardinal Claudio Hummes.
"The peoples of the Amazon demand special attention from the authorities so that their lives are not further violated - continues the text sent to Fides -. The death rate is one of the highest in the country and society is already witnessing the collapse of health systems in major cities such as Manaus and Belém. The statistics provided by the media do not correspond to reality. Many people with obvious symptoms of the disease die at home without medical attention and access to a hospital".
The Bishops therefore recall the responsibility of the public authorities for assistance to the most vulnerable sectors of the population: indigenous peoples, quilombola and other traditional communities that extend to the forest are at high risk. "The figures are alarming", they stress, and recall that "the region has the lowest percentage of hospitals in the country". In addition to the forest populations, those living in urban suburbs are also exposed to the pandemic, and their living conditions are further worsened by the lack of basic sanitation, decent housing, food and employment. "They are migrants, refugees, urban indigenous people, industrial workers, domestic workers, people who live on informal work and ask for health protection. It is the obligation of the State to guarantee the rights enshrined in the federal constitution by offering minimum conditions so that they can overcome this serious moment".
The document denounces that mining and deforestation have increased alarmingly in recent years, facilitated by the loosening of inspections and "by the federal government's ongoing political speech against environmental protection and indigenous areas protected by the Federal Constitution (231 and 232)". The Bishops then warn: "With the Amazon increasingly devastated, subsequent pandemics have yet to come, worse than what we are experiencing". Another cause for concern is the increase in violence in the countryside, 23% more than in 2018. In 2019, according to data from the "Conflicts in the Field Brazil 2019" section of the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT Nacional), 84 % of the murders (27 out of 32) and 73% of assassination attempts (22 out of 30) took place in the Amazon.
The Bishops of the Brazilian Amazon conclude the note by urging the Church and the entire Society to request urgent measures on various matters, including: strengthening public policies, in particular the Unified Health System (SUS); to repudiate speeches that disqualify and discredit the effectiveness of scientific strategies; adopt restrictive measures for the entry of people into all indigenous territories, for the risk of coronavirus transmission; carry out tests on the indigenous population to adopt the necessary isolation measures; provide the personal protective equipment recommended by WHO, in adequate quantities and with the correct instructions for use and disposal; protect health workers working on the health front; ensure food security for indigenous people and traditional populations in the Amazon; strengthen inspection measures against deforestation and extraction; ensure the participation of civil society, social movements and representatives of traditional populations in the spaces for political deliberations. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 5/5/2020)