Malaria outbreak could reach uncontacted Indians

The small Pirahã tribe will be affected by the Madeira river dams in the Western Amazon, Brazil. These mega dams threaten to harm or destroy large areas of land which are home to numerous tribal peoples.
The small Pirahã tribe will be affected by the Madeira river dams in the Western Amazon, Brazil. These mega dams threaten to harm or destroy large areas of land which are home to numerous tribal peoples.
© Clive Dennis/Survival

The lives of uncontacted Indians living close to the Madeira dams in the Brazilian Amazon are at grave risk from a malaria outbreak in the area.

New figures released by a local Mayor’s office reportedly show that the number of malaria cases in the area around the Jirau dam, part of the Madeira hydroelectric project, has tripled since the dam construction began.

Malaria could be fatal for the uncontacted Indians and could lead to the death of many, as has been seen in the past.

In the late 1980s, malaria outbreaks caused the death of 20% of Brazil’s Yanomami Indians within a seven year period.

There are at least four groups of uncontacted Indians in the area of the dams project, two of them known as the Mujica Nava and the Jacareuba/ Katawixi Indians.

An expedition carried out by FUNAI, the Brazilian government’s indigenous affairs department and the NGO Kanindé, revealed that there were uncontacted Indians living as close as 10-30 km to the Jirau dam site.

The malaria outbreak also threatens to devastate the lives of the numerous contacted tribes in the area.

The dams, which are currently under construction, are bringing large scale damage to the rainforest, upon which the Indians depend for their survival.

Almir Surui of the Surui tribe is calling for the construction of the dams to be suspended. He came to Europe to protest against the project last month, and said, ‘The dams are jeopardizing the lives of uncontacted Indians… I wonder how the Brazilian government feels; how can they promote projects that could force a people to extinction?’.

Late last month, the construction of the Madeira dams was brought to a stand still following protests by construction workers.

The Jirau dam is being built by a consortium led by French company GDF Suez.