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The high vulnerability of the Amazon to SARS-CoV-2 also threatens its cultural heritage

Shell (Ecuador)  /  Recent tests to detect the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus carried out in the Ecuadorian Amazon expose a vulnerability among indigenous communities much higher than that recognized by the authorities, which also threatens their cultural legacy due to the impossibility of controlling a possible outbreak.

The tests are being carried out privately in the most remote provinces due to the “absence of state institutions,” Rodrigo Henríquez, a researcher at the University of the Americas (UDLA), who is participating in one of the projects, told EFE.

Innovative results

According to the first results, there are variable rates of contagion in some communities that reach up to 90% in Tehueno, 40% in Shell or 15% in Damointaro.

The greatest risk of contagion is found in the communities near the urban centers of the provinces of Sucumbíos, Orellana, Napo, Pastaza, Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe, the six Amazonian regions that cover 40% of the national territory.

“Our conclusion is that the more remote the community, the less contact it has (with the outside), the less risk of contagion,” said Henríquez, noting that contact with outsiders and the human movement has exposed the native communities.

The UDLA, the San Francisco de Quito University (USFQ), in coordination with the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Confeniae), the Pachamama Foundation and the Pastaza Prefecture, participate in these sampling projects for indigenous populations.

This project is financed by emergency funds from private companies in the face of the national emergency situation, and they try to provide answers to health and social problems of vulnerable groups that the State has more remote.

It has started in six communities in the Waorani, Kichwa and Siona villages, which can often only be reached by plane, and the results are worrying.

“In Shell we are like almost 150 families and there are with symptoms and that is why we really want to make sure if we had COVID or not,” complained Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the Waorani people during the sampling carried out on Friday.

Existential threat

The leader, who organizes preventive educational meetings in the Kichwa language to prepare the community for the pandemic, warned that her main concern is “not infecting grandparents.”

A threat that everyone agrees to point out as existential for each of the fourteen nationalities in the country, since it is they who preserve the ancestral legacy.

“Biologically it is not possible,” says Henríquez when asked if there is an “existential threat” to the community, because “the virus is going to behave the same” as in other communities and the lethality is not absolute (officially in Ecuador on 8 ,two%).

But, she points out, that the mortality rates of the virus affect the elderly, above all, and they are “those who preserve memory” ancestral, so the virus does represent a very serious threat to their identity and customs.

According to the 2017-2021 National Development Plan, around 8% of the 17 million Ecuadorians identify themselves as indigenous, which are divided between 14 nationalities and 18 peoples.

The smallest is the Sapara, a minimal fraction of just 570 members who live in 26 communities spread across the southeastern province of Pastaza and where no case has yet been confirmed.

“The situation in the province is at serious risk of contagion. There have been 356 cases in the last weeks of June in Pastaza and that is why we want to protect our nationality, ”said the president of the Sapara Government Council, Nema Grefa.

For this reason, this nation has decided to maintain the red light as a preventive measure against the advance of the virus in neighboring communities.

Indigenous alert

As in other countries in the region, local indigenous communities have been warning for months that the Ecuadorian State is not fulfilling its responsibility to protect them – they have even filed an action to protect justice that has not been answered so far – and they censure the few prevention policies o Testing for COVID-19.

According to national statistics in the six Amazonian provinces there are 2,939 cases of contagion (5.6% of the total in the country) and 99 deaths (2.3% of all confirmed as COVID-19 nationwide).

Henríquez stresses that these are unrepresentative figures, because the State barely has the resources to carry them out and the examinations that the organizations have carried out show other results.

This reflects, according to him, a “low capacity” to carry out tests outside large cities, and a low record in epidemiological surveillance due to the impossibility of monitoring in such distant areas.

In these circumstances, a single person who entered infected could lead to an uncontrolled outbreak without anyone knowing. (June 24, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)

(Automatic translation)

The related video news (May 8, 2020):


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Question 1
En el texto se dice que...
A
se han realizado pruebas de SARS-CoV-2 a comunidades indígenas de la Amazonía ecuatoriana.
B
no es necesario que se hagan pruebas de SARS-CoV-2 a las comunidades indígenas de la Amazonía ecuatoriana.
C
aún no se ha realizado ninguna prueba de SARS-CoV-2 a ninguna comunidad indígena.
Question 2
Según el texto...
A
las comunidades indígenas que se encuentran más alejadas de los centros urbanos son aquellas en las que hay más riesgo de contagio.
B
los resultados muestran que el número de contagios es el mismo en todas las comunidades indígenas.
C
los miembros de esas comunidades quieren evitar que sus mayores se contagien.
Question 3
Según el texto, ¿por qué se dice que también está amenazado el legado cultural de estas comunidades?
A
Porque este virus afecta principalmente a los más jóvenes.
B
Porque los mayores son quienes preservan su memoria ancestral, por lo que es muy importante evitar que se contagien.
C
Porque viven en lugares muy remotos.
Question 4
En el texto se dice que...
A
esas comunidades afirman que el Estado está trabajando duro para protegerlos.
B
se han organizado encuentros preventivos para preparar a la comunidad indígena ante esta pandemia.
C
se desmiente que pueda darse un brote que sea difícil de controlar.
Question 5
Según el vídeo...
A
no es cierto que enfermedades como el sarampión o la viruela hayan causado gran mortandad a las comunidades indígenas.
B
no es fácil acceder al lugar donde se encuentran algunas comunidades de la Amazonía colombiana.
C
aún no se ha registrado ningún deceso por COVID-19 en las comunidades indígenas.
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