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Vast amounts of irreplaceable knowledge of our natural world resides in the native communities of the Amazon. Unfortunately, deep-rooted inequality plagues developing countries like Peru. This has left most native peoples with little access to medical education and basic healthcare, making them very vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. In this campaign we will work with the leadership of the Native Community of Infierno, part of the Ese’eja Indigenous Nation, to help them distribute care packages of masks, basic food and vital medicines among their members.
What is the problem?
Right now, our friends and colleagues from Infierno are getting sick from the rapid spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In the communities of the Ese’eja Nation there are no medical clinics, no drug stores, and no doctors’ offices with permanent staff. In each there is just a single medical outpost temporarily staffed by a visiting nurse from Puerto Maldonado. As a result, few members of the communities have received education on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and those that get sick have almost no access to medical services. In most instances they cannot even obtain simple pain relievers, fever medicines, or hydration salts.
Read more about the threat of COVID-19 to Indigenous peoples in Science.
How will this project solve the problem?
For decades, we (Wildlife Messengers, The Macaw Society, and Anthropologist Amanda Stronza) have worked side by side with the members of Infierno. Based on our long history of mutual collaboration and trust, we working with community leaders to find ways to help get Infierno through the pandemic. Our plan is to offer emergency care packages which include basic over-the-counter medicines, masks, food, money for transport to the hospital, and COVID education materials. Each care package is $25 and there are 200 families in Infierno. So, for $5,000 we can spread aid and comfort throughout the community.
Potential long-term impact
At the beginning of the last century, the population of the Ese’eja Nation was estimated at over 10,000. But today there are only about 1,000 spread among three communities in Peru. The Ese’ejas have a unique language, rich culture, and a deep knowledge of the forest. But most of that knowledge resides in the minds of the elders. We hope that through this campaign we can help many of these elders and their families survive the COVID-19 pandemic so that they can continue to teach us and their youth about their language, their culture, and their forests.
The people of Infierno have a long history of living with the land in the rain forests of southeastern Peru. Their community is strategically located between the Interoceanic highway and the Tambopata National Reserve. Because of this, by protecting their lands they are an important buffer between the encroaching loggers and miners and the invaluable forests of the national reserve. The community itself is also actively engaged in conservation. They have set aside conservation reserves and have been working extensively in ecotourism.
Given all they have done to help wildlife, it is our turn to help them. From any donations that exceed $10K we will use $400 to produce a public education video for the communities, with information about how they can protect themselves from COVID-19, and a companion short video about how your donations are being used to support people, and in this way, support local stewardship of wildlife, too – something the Ese’eja have been doing for centuries.
Check out our other campaign to stop wildlife trade.