Sao Paulo (CNN)Fears are growing that the coronavirus could ravage Brazil's indigenous communities, following the death of a teenage boy in the Amazon region.
Coronavirus fears grow for Brazil's indigenous groups
A member of the Yanomami people, the 15-year-old boy from the village of Rehebe in northern Brazil had been studying in a nearby town, before returning to his ancestral village where he began to feel symptoms and was transferred to a hospital. He died on Friday from complications related to COVID-19, according to the Health Ministry.
"We have to be extremely careful with indigenous communities," Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said after the Yanomami boy first tested positive. "The government is concerned about indigenous health. We are providing helicopters to withdraw people and take them to more sophisticated health centers."
Some 800,000 indigenous people live in villages throughout Brazil. They may be particularly endangered by the pandemic, with some tribes never having had previous contact with the outside world, and others living far from healthcare facilities and without basic sanitation facilities.
The teenager was one of nine indigenous Brazilians to test positive for coronavirus. Three have died, according to the ministry's Special Secretariat of Indigenous Health, which only monitors indigenous people living in traditional villages or communities.
The Yanomami live in the rainforests of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela. Because they are largely isolated from the outside world, they are more vulnerable to even common viruses. There are an estimated 38,000 Yanomami today, according to the indigenous rights group Survival International.
The nonprofit Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA) has warned the virus could spread among the Yanomami through miners who had illegally entered indigenous territory.