If it were not for air transport, all these people would not have the possibility of receiving health care. They are the Yanomami indigenous people and live in an area the size of Portugal totally isolated.
Some 30,000 Yanomami live in Brazil’s largest indigenous territory, where severe malnutrition and disease, especially malaria, are decimating their population in the Amazon jungle.
The 40 airstrips that remain active in the area are their only way of escape. Medical evacuations and transportation of supplies are handled by a Boa Vista air taxi company.
Fausto Santos, director of operations for Voare Air Taxi, says that “almost all indigenous land needs air transport to evacuate the sick and bring supplies. Air transport is essential to sustain the lives of the region’s indigenous people.”
The health of the indigenous population has deteriorated over several years due to mining in the area, which occupies fertile land, poisons rivers and destroys water sources.
According to estimates by environmental groups and the defense of indigenous rights, there are about 20,000 miners in the area, attracted by high gold prices and urged on by former President Jair Bolsonaro.
At the same time, health services for indigenous people have deteriorated.
There have been reports of miners taking control of sanitary facilities and airstrips in Yanomami territory for their own use.
In two years there were 44,069 cases of malaria, meaning the entire population was contaminated, some people more than once, the Roraima state prosecutor’s office declared in 2021, citing data from the all-Brazil disease reporting system.
Curable conditions like the flu, pneumonia, anemia, and diarrhea become deadly.
At least 570 Yanomami children died from untreated diseases during Bolsonaro’s tenure, from 2019 to 2022, according to Health Ministry data obtained by the independent local news website Sumauma. That marked a 29% increase from the previous four years.