Brazil: one fatality every four hours expected
The indigenous peoples of Brazil might soon be without a functioning healthcare system (Press Release)
The Brazilian government is planning drastic cuts on medical care for indigenous peoples, and human rights activists are extremely worried about an impending disaster. The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) thus called on UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to intervene with the Bolsonaro government immediately.
Apparently, the indigenous peoples of Brazil might soon be without a functioning healthcare system. The human rights panel of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Brazil (Conselho Indigenista Missionário, CIMI) issued an according statement on March 22, 2019 – and several indigenous representatives and delegates of the Special Bureau for Indigenous Health SESAI (Secretaria Especial de Saúde Indígena) recently reported that the federal government has not transferred funds to SESAI or other health centers since January.
The reports indicate that some of the 34 health districts are already short in funds for primary care and medical visits to indigenous communities. According to CIMI, there have been no funds for various medical services since October 2018. "At the end of 2018, more than 8,000 Cuban doctors were working in the country as part of the Mais Médicos program. Now that they have left the country, there is a dramatic lack of medical professionals, especially in the poor and remote areas," criticized Yvonne Bangert, the STP's expert on indigenous peoples.
Brazil's newly appointed Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta is an open critic of indigenous rights. On March 20, he had announced significant changes within the ministry. According to CIMI, a partner organization of the STP, there are clear signs that SESAI might be disbanded soon. The ministry has describes the cuts as a necessary restructuring of the health services for indigenous peoples – allegedly to ensure that the services can be optimized. However, SESAI and other external healthcare providers were also accused of having misused resources.
CIMI warns of incalculable dangers for the country's indigenous peoples. Given the distances between the indigenous communities and the public medical institutions, it is irresponsible to cut down on the funds. According to SESAI, there is no alternative to the current healthcare system. If there was a standstill as a result of the cuts, chaos and death would be inevitable: "We would have to expect one fatality every four hours," SESAI stated.
The FUNAI agency is no longer able to act, and SESAI – another important institution for the indigenous peoples of Brazil – might soon be disbanded as well. The government is cutting down on fundamental rights and care structures which the indigenous peoples had fought for over decades – regardless of possible casualties. The STP supports the appeal of the indigenous organizations and their supporters to international actors to try to improve the situation of Brazil's indigenous peoples.
Header Image: SENAI via Flickr