Health In Harmony is launching a new partnership and programs to protect a vital portion of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil – home to 33 million people and one fifth of the world’s biodiversity.
In 2019, Health In Harmony assessed four sites across the Amazon. After months of research and relationship-building, we were invited to partner with communities in Terra do Meio in the Xingu River Basin in Brazil, and with Instituto Socioambiental (ISA).
Why the Xingu River Basin?
The Xingu is particularly important because the rain it generates feeds the entire Amazon, influencing global weather patterns and the climate.
It serves as a “green shield” blocking deforestation. Losing much more of the forests of the Xingu is likely to mean crossing the tipping point for the Amazon system to transition to a non-forest ecosystem, with significant consequences for the entire planet.
This key forest is protected by a very small number of extremely remote Indigenous and Traditional Communities. These people are part of a mosaic of almost 8.5 million hectares of protected areas, known as the Xingu Corridor of Socio-Environmental Diversity.
Devastating wildfires, sociopolitical tumult, and the spread of COVID-19 make the need for a planetary health approach in the Amazon rainforest more important than ever.
We must support the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples who are on the front-lines protecting these key rainforests. They call these forests home, but are facing challenges of limited access to resources, including healthcare and education. Their sovereignty and collective rights to land ownership are also under threat from the government.
Especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of access to healthcare is a particularly pressing matter. The virus is taking a disproportionate toll on these communities and is contributing to a spike in rainforest degradation, as community members must leave their homes and communities to receive healthcare.
What have we done already?
Throughout July and August, Health In Harmony and Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) conducted six Radical Listening meetings with 215 people representing 3 Traditional Communities across the Xingu. The communities told us that if they have access to high quality and affordable health care, alternative livelihoods, and education, it will support them to stay on their land, resist external pressures, and protect this important and essential part of the Amazon.
These communities cannot sell their land, as it is collectively owned. However, they can leave their land due to medical emergencies and lack of local healthcare services, leaving it open for invasion.
Based on the results of the initial Radical Listening sessions, Health In Harmony and our partners (including the communities in the Xingu River Basin) will work together on providing the following programs and interventions:
- Healthcare Professionals
- Emergency Evacuation and Transportation Services
- Health Outreach
- Enhanced Livelihood Support
- Education Advocacy and Resources
On September 21, mobile clinics began with a health expedition travelling by boat to communities up the Iriri River. Expedition participants include our partners at ISA, the Federal University of Pará Medical School, and the Associação de Moradores da Reserva Extrativista Rio Iriri (AMORERI).
The medical team will be providing communities with medication, vaccinations, and other healthcare services. All members of the health expedition are observing strict health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in these isolated communities.
We are thrilled to be working in partnership with communities in the Xingu River Basin in Brazil and to help implement community-designed programs to help these Indigenous and Traditional Peoples continue to protect such a vital portion of the Amazon Rainforest.