6th April 2020. Puyo, Ecuador – In response to the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, indigenous communities and organizations in Ecuador have officially launched an “Amazon Emergency Action Fund (COVID-19)” in order to raise urgent support internationally to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus into indigenous territories, and to guarantee Indigenous peoples’ survival.
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the far reaches of the globe, new cases have already been detected in frontier towns bordering indigenous lands in the Amazon, our world’s largest and most biodiverse rainforest. Ecuador has registered 3 646 cases of COVID-19 and 180 deaths to date, and is Latin America’s second hardest hit country after Brazil.
The Amazon Emergency Action Fund (COVID-19) has been launched as a response to the crisis, to finance and amplify the measures that eleven indigenous nations are leading on the ground to prevent the spread of the disease. As Ecuador struggles to grapple with the crisis in the country, nations across the region are blockading entrances to their territories, a preventative measure which has cut off many communities from access to basic food and supplies, and left some family members stranded outside their territories.
“The Ecuadorian government’s response so far has been negligent and irresponsible, and we are the most affected”, explains indigenous leader Jaime Vargas, President of Ecuador’s national indigenous organization CONAIE. In an effort to fill the void left by the government’s failure to plan for the protection and aid of indigenous peoples, indigenous nations and local non-profit organizations are now working together to execute a comprehensive emergency response plan, which integrates prevention, humanitarian aid and emergency assistance to meet communities’ essential needs. This includes providing food, supplies and medical attention, translating critical information into native languages, and lobbying before the government for better planning and resourcing of the country’s indigenous population.
In the wake of a tragic legacy of foreign pandemics decimating entire indigenous communities and even cultures, indigenous peoples— who have been protecting the Amazon for thousands of years— are one of our planet’s most vulnerable populations. Especially at risk are indigenous elders, the guardians of thousands of years of ancestral knowledge about the Amazon rainforest and how to protect it. The COVID-19 pandemic compounds the threats indigenous peoples face to their cultural and physical survival, exacerbating existing inequalities and systematic rights violations, such as invasions from illegal loggers, poachers and miners and the destructive impacts of fossil fuel extraction and big agriculture.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a grave threat to us as indigenous nations because the State has never guaranteed our fundamental rights, such as our right to health”, affirms Alicia Salazar, Siona leader and Director of indigenous non-profit organization Ceibo Alliance. In late March, indigenous and human rights organizations in Ecuador sent a letter of concern urging the government to implement concrete, culturally adequate and effective protection measures in order to guarantee the fulfillment of Indigenous Peoples’ rights to life, integrity, access to health and self-determination during this health emergency. In many communities, key services, such as water, are chronically underfunded, and their geographical isolation makes swift access to basic health-care services a challenge, if not an impossibility. To date, there has been no response from the government to indigenous peoples’ concerns.
All of the proceeds raised through the campaign will go towards supporting indigenous efforts in the Amazon to contain the potentially devastating threat of coronavirus at a time when our world’s most important rainforest and indigenous cultures have never been under greater risk of annihilation. While deforestation and biodiversity loss accelerate, the current pandemic is symptomatic of a much deeper crisis in the world, edging us closer to climate chaos and an irreversible tipping point. As the ancestral guardians of millions of acres of pristine rainforest, indigenous peoples are key leaders of the just climate solutions our planet needs right now.
“Amazon Emergency Action Fund (COVID-19)” is a joint effort between Ecuador’s national indigenous organization CONAIE, regional indigenous organization of the Ecuadorian Amazon CONFENIAE, local indigenous non-profit organization Ceibo Alliance, and international non-profit organization Amazon Frontlines.
Visit the Campaign Website: www.bit.ly/covidactionfund
“The Amazon’s Indigenous Peoples keep the rest of the world safe year-round by guarding and protecting the rainforest from destructive logging, drilling, mining and other illegal activity in their territories. Now we urgently need the global community to rally behind them, as they try to protect themselves from this invasive disease threatening their physical and cultural survival. Thousands of lives and the very health of our climate depend on what we do now to help.”
– Mitch Anderson, Executive Director of Amazon Frontlines
“We Indigenous Peoples don’t have guarantees for our lives in the midst of this nationwide and global crisis. If this pandemic reaches our communities, it will be the end of us as indigenous peoples. There are no hospitals near our communities, we don’t have access to information or basic services, and the geographic isolation of our territories means that this pandemic could be fatal for our people.”
– Jaime Vargas, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE)
“The magnitude of this pandemic threatens our very survival as Amazonian indigenous peoples. If we don’t take action now, an outbreak could spread throughout our territories. This puts our very existence as indigenous nations at risk. We must organize to protect and guarantee our life, and we must act now.”
– Marlon Vargas, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE)
“As a Siona woman, I feel deeply concerned by this global pandemic and the threat it poses for our people. Our elders and children are most vulnerable. Our elders hold all of our cultural knowledge. This is why we are launching this campaign, we want to protect and ensure our physical, cultural and spiritual survival for our future generations”.
– Alicia Salazar, Director of Ceibo Alliance
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