The Ticuna and Yagua indigenous communities fear for their lives and the possible complete disappearance of their people due to their dangerous proximity to the tri-country border area connecting Peru, Colombia and Brazil, where 17 cases of COVID-19 have already been confirmed.
In the area of Peru, in Santa Rosa de Yavarí, there are two people infected and there is no medical equipment to attend to them there nor in the nearby city. Doctors provide care without protection and are at risk of contracting the virus. The area on the Peruvian side is abandoned; there is no government presence and the villages and indigenous communities are at constant risk of contracting coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 virus already exists in the Ticuna territory, especially in Santa Rosa, which is on the border with Brazil and Colombia. We are very concerned about the town’s proximity to our communities, since there are two infected on the Peruvian side, four in Leticia (Colombia) and eleven in Tabatinga (Brazil). Despite this danger, the communities and others do not respect the quarantine and go out to buy food in Tabatinga and Leticia. This runs a great risk for us Ticuna indigenous peoples,” said indigenous leader Francisco Cayetano, President of the FECOTYBA federation.
In this area there is neither police nor military control, and river transit continues to operate normally, a situation that puts communities and everybody else at risk to travel as normal and they do not comply with the quarantine. There is no sanction, nor prevention.
For its part, the Federation of the Ticuna and Yaguas Communities of the Lower Amazon (FECOTYBA) demonstrated with photographic evidence how intruders or unknown outsiders entered their territories.
«We are sure that later on, if the risk is not taken seriously, outsiders can infect us, and that will bring many consequences because here on the border we cannot count on anyone, there is no medicine, no food; this situation will fall into total chaos. We want the authorities to take urgent measures before the virus spreads into the communities, attending urgently to this area, we do not want it to spread in our communities,» added the very concerned Ticuna indigenous leader, Francisco Cayetano.
Abandoned medical center in Caballococha is the only center near Ticuna and Yagua indigenous communities, which is still a 4- to 7-hour trip.
The only hospital in Caballococha is abandoned and lacks security equipment. It is the closest one serving the Ticuna and Yagua indigenous peoples. It is 4 hours away by boat if you come from the native community of Bellavista de Cañaru, 7 hours by boat if you come from the native community of Gamboa and half an hour from the Cusillococha community.
This is the only medical center that would attend to this population, but is currently in crisis. There are no medical supplies to meet the needs of the indigenous population. A lonely sign indicates that only emergencies are attended to, and the notice warns that visitors should stay at home if they do not want to die of coronavirus.
«We call on the authorities and international organizations to support us with masks, hand sanitizer, soap and all disinfection materials to help protect us, as the closest hospitals are abandoned and unprotected. Specifically, we ask them to help us provide biosecurity to the posts because in the Caballococha health center we do not have these materials,» said Ticuna indigenous leader Francisco Cayetano.
Massive resignation of medical personnel in Leticia, Colombia
The concern on the part of the indigenous peoples on the Peruvian side of the border is also aggravated by the recent massive resignation of doctors from the San Rafael Hospital in Leticia for not having guarantees to attend to cases of COVID-19 in the tri-state border area.
About 20 general practitioners and specialists from the only public hospital in Leticia in Colombia resigned, protesting that they do not have work or security safeguards to attend to coronavirus cases and that the government of their country has not complied with their announcements a month ago to build isolation zones and provide personal protective equipment to the institution.
FECOTYBA and ORPIO fear that this same action of massive resignations will be replicated in the Santa Rosa de Yavarí hospital or in the Caballococha Health Center.
Finally, ORPIO asks the health authorities, the Regional Government and Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra prioritize emergency attention to the borders. We cannot allow indigenous brothers to become ill and for all indigenous communities to disappear.