The Venezuelan natives are the hardest affected by COVID-19 in South America

Although Brazil ranks first in the region in the number of coronavirus cases, between July and the first week of August, Venezuela registered the highest proportion of infections, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

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The UN urged in May to strengthen attention to native communities during the pandemic. Photo by NGO Kape Kape.

By Jesus Barreto A.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) updated its report on the situation of the new coronavirus in Native Latin American populations. This latest update covers the period from July to August 2. The bulletin shows a significant increase in confirmed cases in indigenous communities in Venezuela, which proportionally ranked it as the territory with the highest rate of COVID-19 infections in South America during July.

Almost 0.9% of all the Coronavirus cases in Venezuela have reported in indigenous communities. They represent only 2.7% of the total population, a disproportion that is more acute in Venezuela than other countries in South America.

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By law, Original or Native Peoples in Venezuela have special protections, particularly when it comes to public health. And yet, they are one of the groups that, according to PAHO, has suffered the most.

“The countries and territories that reported the highest relative proportion of new cases were the Bahamas (476%), Costa Rica (385%), the U.S. Virgin Islands (376%), and Saint Pierre and Miquelon (300%). Those that reported the highest relative proportion of new deaths were Costa Rica (863%), Venezuela (213%), and Colombia (198%),” PAHO reported in its epidemiological report.

With these data, Venezuela surpassed Brazil and Colombia, which ranked first and second, respectively, in the total number of cases. The rise coincides with the highest peak of the pandemic since it began in March. At the time, the government of Nicolas Maduro recognized a gradual increase in infections.

Since the end of June, the country reached the phase of exponential transmission, which meant an accelerated increase in the rate of infection, close to 1,000 cases per day.

Regional Alarm

In early June, when the Americas became the new global focus of the coronavirus pandemic, PAHO increased its efforts to make the reality of the most vulnerable populations visible. A month earlier, it decided to produce a separate bulletin in the region, exclusively for indigenous peoples, with statistics sent by the governments. In the case of Venezuela, they reported through the National Liaison Centre for International Health Regulations (Cnersi).

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In 2014, the National Institute of Statistics placed the population density of indigenous ethnic groups at 724,592, representing 2.7% of the total population of Venezuela, which at the time was around 32 million people. According to what the Ministry of Health sent to Cnersi, 0.88% of coronavirus cases in national territory, up to August 2, were detected in indigenous settlements. At that time, the state had admitted a total of 20,206 cumulative cases, of which 179 were indigenous.

“In Venezuela, since the confirmation of the first cases of COVID-19, and until August 2, 2020, 179 cases were confirmed in indigenous populations, including three deaths. 68.5% of the cases reported in the state of Bolivar (123 cases) and the rest of the cases got reported in the states of Zulia (43 cases, two deaths), Amazonas (12 cases), and Delta Amacuro. The indigenous group that presents the majority of cases and deaths is the Pemon, followed by the Wayuu,” said the organization.

In March, the new United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Jose Francisco Cali Tza, denounced that the pandemic was leading to violations of the rights of this segment of the population. He called for the implementation of urgent actions for their protection at the continental level.

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