Júnior Yanomami: In the Epicenter of the Crisis


President of the Yanomami District Health Council (Dsei-Y) talks about mining-related emergencies.

Earlier this year, with the Lula administration's operation to rescue Yanomami indigenous people in a situation of malnutrition and danger, Brazil turned its attention to the public health emergency in the territory.

In the epicenter of the crisis brought on by the rise of illegal gold mining combined with the bankruptcy of healthcare assistance in the Yanomami land, Junior Hekurari Yanomami was in the Surucucus region, where he was born, when he spoke with PlenaMata.

While awaiting the arrival of more professionals from the Unified Healthcare System's National Force, he said he has never seen ‘a situation’ like this before. In February, the mission from the federal government saved a seriously ill newborn, as well as dozens of indigenous people whose lives had been threatened in the region.

Over the last four years, there have been many changes and we have seen many deaths. We've lost children, women and young people. Lots of malaria, malnutrition and invaders.

Since he was 14, Junior has been working in the field of indigenous healthcare and he states that the crisis affecting the Yanomami gets worse with each passing year. He has served as president of the Yanomami District Health Council (Dsei-Y) since 2019 and currently presides over the Yanomami Urihi Association.

I was born and raised in my territory and I have never seen a situation like the one we're experiencing now, especially in the Surucucus and Auaris region, where more people are dying from malaria, malnutrition and worms.

In April of 2022, while Lula was campaiging for president, Júnior delivered the report “Yanomami Under Attack” from Instituto Socioambiental to alert him of the serious problems afflicting the territory at the time. The document contained statistics on the tragedy.

Now with the new administration, he says it's necessary to act fast to prevent more deaths among the Yanomami, who lost at least 570 children in preventable fatalities during Bolsonaro's four years in office.

Of the current government's new measures, he argues in favor of planning: “It's no use just sending doctors to Surucucus if we don't have the material for them to work. So we need for everything to be planned.”

We also need medicine, oxygen, vaccines, everything to be complete. We need to do all the work and that's why I'm directing things.

REPORTING Emily Costa TEXT AND EDITING Carolina Dantas PHOTOS Petricor; Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil; Publicity photo/Ministry of Health; Igor Evangelista/ Ministry of Health; Instituto Socioambiental VISUAL IDENTITY Clara Borges assembly  Luiza Toledo TRANSLATION Matthew Rinaldi