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Amazon Indians hit by deadly epidemic in Venezuela

Source: IAN JAMES, Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan health workers say an epidemic that may be malaria has killed dozens of people, decimating three villages of the Yanomami Indians, whose struggle for survival in a remote part of the Amazon rain forest has attracted worldwide support.

Two indigenous health workers who visited the area told The Associated Press on Friday that village chiefs told them that about 50 people have died recently, many of them children.

“There are still many, many sick people,” Andres Blanco said by telephone from Puerto Ayacucho in southern Venezuela. Blanco, a Yanomami health worker in a government program for the indigenous communities, alerted regional officials this month after trekking for days to visit three remote villages.

He returned by helicopter last weekend with a team of government doctors who administered medication and confirmed that many survivors are also infected with malaria.

A regional health official, Dr. Carlos Botto, said the initial accounts and tests have shown there was some type of epidemic and evidence of malaria. But he said the number of deaths remained unclear and further tests were needed to determine if other diseases could be involved. He said other officials were analyzing results of the five-day medical mission.

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Cut to the core

Cut to the core

Gold miners in the Brazilian Amazon are destroying the Yanomami community’s home. But, says Davi Kopenawa, his people are ready to fight for their land.
Rowenna Davis met him.

Davi Kopenawa sits opposite me looking agitated. His small brown hands turn a folded piece of paper over and over. It’s an email from his people, the Yanomami community in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon:

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Health Care Reaching Amazonian Indians (April 2008)

Mosquito nets for the Yanomami

For three to five months every year, Christina Haverkamp lives with the Yanomami Indians in the Amazon Rain Forest. So far she has built 3 small medical stations for these people who previously had no access to health care. She also obtained a donation of insecticide-treated mosquito nets from Bayer Environmental Science to help control malaria, a major health threat to these very vulnerable people.

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