Brazil: Like the Amazon forest burns, COVID-recovering indigenous communities struggle!

Brazil | Amazone Forest | 17th June 2021 | Virtual Wire

The destruction of the world’s largest tropical forest is exponentially increasing due to the burning season, reveals data published last Friday (11) by the Brazilian space research institute, INPE.

According to INPE’s satellite-based deforestation tracking system, DETER, the deforestation in the Brazilian part of the Amazon amounted to 1,39 square kilometers, an area equivalent to 24 times the size of Manhattan since May. This represents a 67% increase compared to the same period in 2020.

The graph also represents the highest record since, at least, 2007, even when taking into account that deforestation in the Brazilian part of the Amazon rainforest typically increases from June to September, when the region experiences its dry season, which also coincides with the season with the greatest amount of fires.

In the past, however, when the smoke from the burning Amazon jungle reached indigenous communities in Brazil’s Amazon state, people drank tea made from local medicinal herbs that soothed their lungs. But as the 2021 fire season approaches, local leaders fear that this time, the tea might not be enough: many communities are still struggling with the after-effects of COVID-19.

“I still feel tired, and my chest is in pain. When I breathe, it hurts,” said Tomas, 60, who was infected with the coronavirus in March and briefly hospitalized. The smoke, when it comes, will make life harder, he fears.“It affects our lungs, our health. And there’s no escape, as everywhere there’s smoke.”

According to the Global Climate and Health Alliance, a consortium of health organizations from around the world reports that the health impacts on people exposed to forest and bush fires are still not yet well studied, but it is confirmed that exposure to forest fire smoke is linked to more emergency room visits.

In the long term, it also led to higher vulnerability to the most serious effects of COVID-19, researchers found.

According to a study carried out in June by the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), the death rate of indigenous people in Brazil's Amazon is approximately 250% higher than in the rest of the Brazilian population.

“More and more people are at risk from the long-term consequences of forest and bush fires,” said Jeni Miller, executive director of the Global Climate and Health Alliance, in a statement.

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