Social impacts, exposure and resilience to the pandemic COVID-19 between Munduruku indigenous and traditional communities in the Brazilian Amazon (Pará)

  • Garvey, Brian (Principal Investigator)
  • Torres, Mauricio (Co-investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details



Layman's description

Background to the two case studies : Trombetos and Middle Tapajo
On the Trombetas River, north of Pará, there is the 4th largest Bauxite mining in the world, MRN. Mining has occupied African descendent ‘Quilombo’ territory and lives in great conflict with them for several reasons.
The nearest Quilombo is just 500 meters from the mining operating base, the town of Porto Trombetas. And, since almost all of their territory was expropriated, quilombolas live in dependence on providing cleaning services to MRN. All of this happens in a very remote and isolated region, with no nearby cities. MRN, in May, communicated that it was not allowing employees to leave Porto Trombetas (the mining company's private village).
In April, however, 3 cases of COVID were confirmed in Porto Trombetas; they were employees who had just arrived from Manaus, where the pandemic is totally out of control. Yet MRN appointed quilombo workers to clean up the accommodation where they were isolated. Quilombolas are the most vulnerable of workers, because, in addition to the type of service they offer to be at high risk of contagion, they live without access to basic sanitation..
The quilombolas are in the middle of the Trombetas River and their territories end where the territory of the indigenous Kaxuiana and others begin. Quilombolas and Indians have a close relationship and the situation is very worrying, since the contagion of quilombolas, which would already be a disaster, would certainly also lead to contagion by the Indians.
Note: Thegovernment considered mining an essential service, that is, it supports MRN not to stop operations.
We have, then, the risk of contagion very present between quilombolas and Indians, being taken by a mega mining industry and having as a link the working relationship imposed as a result of territorial expropriation.

2. In the middle Tapajós River, Manduruku Indians and the edge of the traditional Montanha-Mangabal community came together to face the virus that reaches them through the spread of gold mining. They got a little financing, bought basic food baskets so that people don't have to leave and go to the city. However, gold mining is a potentially very dangerous entry for the virus.
The environmental inspection agency, Ibama's inspection, is combating the illegal mines so that they do not infect the villages and communities.

Key findings

The research aimed, fundamentally, to understand the particularities of the coronavirus pandemic in each participating community, contributing to the construction of their territorial protection and health promotion strategies and to the implementation of actions to combat the disease. The researchers from the communities and the Associations involved in the project made conversations by radio, whats app and visited villages and localities in order to carry out conversations and understand the different realities. The project covered the upper and middle Tapajós: Munduruku Indigenous Land, Sawre Muybu Indigenous Land, Praia do Mangue Reserve and Praia do Índio Reserve. The researchers outside the communities conducted twelve interviews with a structured questionnaire and conversations via whats app and telephone with the communities. As a result, it was possible to contribute to the elaboration of the products listed below, which aim, above all, to make the situation of the Munduruku people in Tapajós visible and to support them in their impact on public policies and state resources, with the participation of international organizations and engagement of the surrounding society:
- Munduruku program to combat COVID-19 , which formed the basis of political pressure campaign directed at the State Governor and the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai ) and fundraising to complement the actions promoted by this project. ( annex 1)
- Report on Human Rights violations among the Mundurukú People due to the COVID-19 crisis and the actions and inactions of the Brazilian Federal Government, delivered to the Organization of United Nations on 19 June ( Annex 2);
In the face of serious human rights violations among the indigenous peoples of Brazil, the entities and petitioners present information on the situation of the Munduruku people in the upper and middle Tapajós region, in the Brazilian Amazon, and conclude with a series of requests. The petition is signed by the Munduruku Wakoborun Women's Association, Pariri Indigenous Association, and supported by the Wuyxaximã Association, Da'uk Association and Munduruku Ipereg Ayu Movement, as well as by the Paraense Society for the Defense of Human Rights (SDDH), Movimento Xingu Vivo para Semper (MXVPS), Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib) and Coordination of Indigenous Organizations in the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab ). The same document was sent to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
- Petition with precautionary measures filed, on July 16, at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) by the Women's Associations Munduruku Wakoborun and Pariri, with support from the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib), SDDH, Global Justice, Terra de Rights and legal nucleus of the Universidad and the State of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), aiming to guarantee the socio-cultural integrity of the Indigenous Lands and measures to combat territorial invasion and the transmission of the coronavirus (Confidential document).
- journalist material In Amazonia, libraries are being September alight , published in Open Democracy . (Annex 3)
- two websites with information about the pandemic in Tapajós and the actions taken by Associations Wakoborun and Pariri : ; , aiming to raise national society's awareness of the situation;
Regarding the social changes and the project's contributions to reducing the economic and social impacts generated by Covid-19 in the territories, the following stand out: the strengthening of traditional healing and treatment practices (eg traditional medicine workshop), considering that 100% of respondents reported that the treatment of coronaviruses in their communities involved traditional remedies, in many cases from the guidance and guidance of shamans; support for the isolation of villages from emergency actions (deliveries of basic baskets) and medium-term actions (delivery of birds for breeding and consumption) related to food security and reduction of dependence on products obtained in cities; access to oxygen therapy equipment in the villages, avoiding removals to the cities and enabling immediate treatment of symptomatic patients within the territory.


May 16 to July 31, 2020
A survey of general data on the coronavirus pandemic was carried out in the Munduruku villages of the upper and middle Tapajós, through contact via Whats App and e-mail of the project researchers with the partner Associations, professionals from the Special Indigenous Health District (Dsei ) Tapajós, Munduruku leaders from different Base Pole[1] . A Whats App group was created, which is maintained until the date of this report, bringing together these different actors to share information quickly and make decisions about emergency actions to combat covid-19.
With that, during the entire project period, it was possible to identify the Base Poles where the number of coronavirus cases grew exponentially and villages that remained without cases, in addition to gathering important information about specific cases, perceptions of the Munduruku on the ways of coping with the disease and on the work of Dsei Tapajós.
Among the main data that supported the execution of the project and the production of a local diagnosis, we mention:
- the first case of covid-19 among the Munduruku was identified on May 10, with the indigenous Jerônimo Manhuary, who lived in the city of Jacareacanga, deceased;
- between May 10 and June 3, 12 Munduruku died of covid-19, in hospitals in Jacareacanga and Belém ;
- at least 45 Munduruku villages of the middle and upper Tapajós presented cases of covid-19 between the end of June and early July, having been confirmed over 800 cases through rapid tests;
- the lack of tests prevented the diagnosis of other cases, but the conversations with the indigenous people indicate that the villages that presented tested cases were contaminated in practically the entire population, or at least the majority, as many who presented symptoms of the disease did not were tested;
- Covid-19 cases in the villages served by the Polo Base Katõ grew exponentially between June 15 and July 10, reaching 168 cases confirmed by rapid testing in the Katõ village, whose population is 643 people. The lack of testing prevented the Tapajós DSEI from continuing to identify new cases in the Katõ village;
- the five villages served by the Polo Base Santa Maria, as well as the eight villages served by the Polo Base Teles Pires did not present cases of Covid-19;
- the experiences with the death of indigenous people in city hospitals led a large part of the Munduruku people to make the decision to carry out the treatment of contaminated relatives in the villages themselves, where traditional treatments were conducted, conducted by the shamans , and oxygen therapy offered by the care units of Dsei ;
- Dsei started the installation of eleven care units in schools and health posts in the villages for the treatment of Covid-19 in June 2020, with support from the Expeditionaries of Health, Greenpeace, Saúde e Alegria , other organizations and this project;
Based on the information exchanged, priority actions were defined: a) to provide medical equipment for villages served by Associations partnering with the project that presented an alarming situation of growing cases, as well as monitoring equipment for the Associations participating in the project, to be used during its actions in the villages, identifying potential cases of covid-19 and monitoring their ravity, in partnership with Dsei ; b) support small traditional medicine workshops to encourage the use of traditional medicines; c) support the isolation of the villages served by the Base Base Santa Maria and by the Base Base Katõ (considering that the villages of Teles Pires were served by other projects), based on actions aimed at the food security of these villages. All the activities carried out were planned and carried out by the project's partner associations.

Performed activities:
May 15 to June 17: Project planning. Creation of the Whatsapp group and e-mail of the researchers of the project with the partner Associations. Passing on information about coronavirus prevention in the Munduruku language through whatsapp groups (see communication materials below).

June 17: Delivery of amateur radio in the village of Nova Trairão, Tapajós River, Munduruku Indigenous Land to ensure communication between the villages and Dsei Tapajós.

June 20 - Traditional medicine workshop

Manufacture of ointments, syrups and home remedies using roots, barks and leaves collected in the forest. With the guidance of the elders, shamans and knobs, the Munduruku women manufacture medicines from traditional knowledge to distribute in the villages.
July 6th to 10th : Purchase and delivery of 79 basic baskets, five boxes of soap and fishing materials (15 mesh, fishing lines and fishing nets) in the villages of Santa Maria, Aipereg and Bananal Cururu, in order to maintain social isolation and prevent the displacement of indigenous people from these villages to the city. The Wakoborun Association delivered, along with the basic baskets, booklets with information on prevention to COVID-19, produced in March 2020 (annex 4) .

July 14th
Purchased s two radio microphones to service the villages: Aldeia Nova Tapajós and Village Sawre Watpu on the Tapajós River, the Indigenous Land Munduruku. The villages were without communication due to the lack of a radio lever / microphone.

July 15 : Delivery of two oximeters, two flow meters for the use of oxygen cylinders and two hospital inhalers to the Base Base Katõ and delivery of an oximeter to the village Nova Trairão, both in the Munduruku Indigenous Land.

July, 19
Oximeters were purchased for the Munduruku Wakoborun Women's Association and the Pariri Indigenous Association.

July 26 - Radio delivery to Pesqueirão village, Munduruku Indigenous Land

July 27 : Delivery of birds and supplies for breeding in the Katõ village , an action that involved technical advice from a young Munduruku Bachelor in Agrarian Sciences.1

[1] The Special Indigenous Health District (Dsei ) is the decentralized management unit of the Indigenous Health Care Subsystem (SasiSUS) linked to the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health (Sesai ) of the Ministry of Health. The Base Pole brings together the Multidisciplinary Teams Indigenous Health (EMSI) that promote primary health care services in a set of villages grouped, usually by river channels or geographical proximity (in the case of Polo Base in cities and urban villages ). In Brazil, there are 34 Dsei and 361 Base Poles. The Dsei that serves the Munduruku villages in the middle and upper Tapajós is called Dsei Rio Tapajós. This is responsible for 11 Base Poles that serve 160 villages, 145 of which are Munduruku do Médio and Alto Tapajós, served by ten Base Poles, three Munduruku Cara-Preta and Maytapu villages, served by the Itaituba Base Hub and 12 Kayapó villages, served by the Polo Hub New Progress Base.

The Remaining Community Association of Quilombo Boa Vista (ACRQBV) , located in Oriximiná, in the state of Pará, received from the Scottish Funding Council GCRF COVID19 Response Award 2019/20 , through the University of Strathclyde.This amount was fully spent on the purchase of food (rice, beans, oil, pasta, sugar and milk), which made up 170 basic food baskets distributed to community members.
The other products that make up the baskets were purchased with funds raised by another association: ACRQAT (Association of the Remaining Communities of Quilombo do Alto Trombetas), which congregates all quilombola territories in the region. The distribution of the baskets helped to avoid traveling to the city of Oriximiná or Porto Trombetas, where community members buy essential items.
There was a joint effort to prevent Covid-19 from entering quilombola territories. However, the disease has spread, especially among the residents of Boa Vista, those closest to the headquarters of Mineração Rio do Norte. It was at the mining company that the first cases of the new coronavirus appeared in the municipality, as can be seen from the testimonies of interviewees
When asked how the covid-19 came to the community , many residents of Boa Vista , interview of by phone , have responded with :
“The disease came through the MRN. She was the first to bring the people on the motorboat, her people came and went. It gives priority pros FUNCI the nários it. We were full of roadblocks, but mining workers weren't. And then she came to blame the riverside people, the quilombola people for bringing the disease here ”
Emerson de Souza, 33, storekeeper at a company in Porto Trombetas
“ Mining did not prohibit her employees from traveling, and our family members go there to work. When it started to appear, we thought we were safe here, thinking that mining would take care, but it brought in people from outside ”
Paloma Rocha, 25, housewife
"The covid arrived through people already with the disease, MRN employees, who came from outside (Manaus)".
Ivaldilene, 23, apprentice at MRN

The situation is explained in the following article in the renown online media journal Mongabay:

Insert: Mongabay reportage on situation in Trombetas with credit to University of Strathclyde SFC GCRF Covid-19

Short titleCovid-19 Amazonian resistance 1
Effective start/end date1/05/2031/07/20


  • Covid-19
  • Amazon
  • Munduruku


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