COVID-19: “Forgotten” Amazonian tribes in Peru discover coronavirus for the first time


Is it possible that some people around the world are still not aware of the pandemic? Yes. COVID-19 has left a region of Peru untouched, not just in mind. Last month, a “forgotten” ethnic community far from Peru’s Amazon rainforest heard the phrase “coronavirus”.

These indigenous inhabitants of the hamlet of Mangual, located in the Loreto region of northern Peru, still do not have access to electricity or the Internet. They live in wooden stilt houses and rely on their hunting and fishing skills.

According to official death figures, all members are Urarina, an indigenous ethnic tribe with only 5,800 people living on the planet. A community leader in a remote Peruvian city was told how Covid decimated most of the world more than a year and a half after the start of the global pandemic. However, the pandemic has affected some people residing in areas other than the village of Mangual, with five people dying from COVID-19.

(Photo: Mario Tama / Getty Images)
SAO LUIZ DO TAPAJOS, BRAZIL – NOVEMBER 27: A member of the indigenous Munduruku tribe wears a traditional head covering near the Tapajos River in preparation for a “resistance caravan” by indigenous groups and opposing supporters at the project to build a hydroelectric dam on the Tapajos river in the Amazon rainforest on November 27, 2014 in Sao Luiz do Tapajos, State of Para, Brazil. Indigenous groups and activists traveled by boat from riverfront communities to express their resistance to the proposed 8.040 MW Sao Luiz do Tapajos mega-dam, which is one of a series of five planned dams in the region that will flood indigenous lands and national parks. The United Nations climate conference is due to start on December 1 in neighboring Peru.

Amazon’s ‘forgotten’ tribes discovered about COVID-19 last month

According to a Reuters report, Mariano Quisto, the leader of a tribal group in Peru’s deep Amazon jungle, only learned of the pandemic when health experts arrived to vaccinate residents in October 2021.

He told Reuters he had no idea what COVID-19 meant and that this was the first time he had heard of the virus sweeping the world.

After a three-day river boat trip that began in the Amazon city of Iquitos, the world’s largest metropolis inaccessible by road, Reuters landed in the indigenous Urarina colony of Quito alongside health officials government and members of the International Red Cross.

Julio Mendigure, head of tribal health strategy at the country’s health ministry, said indigenous communities – especially in the Amazon – have one of the lowest vaccination rates in Peru. He says about 20% of them have been fully immunized, compared to about half of the country.

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Shortage of health professionals a problem in rural areas

Warren Record said rural communities have unobserved issues in metropolitan areas regarding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Warren County Commission Chairman Davis, there are disparities in the availability of health care between urban and rural communities.

Former North Carolina congressman Eva Clayton believes that focusing on rural communities is essential, because suffering and vulnerability exist.

According to Clayton, minorities in rural areas are the most opposed to vaccination. Rural people without health insurance are the least likely to get vaccinated, she noted.

Experts say COVID-19 has exacerbated the hardships already affecting rural communities. These include loneliness, especially among the elderly, and the lack of high-speed internet connection in many areas.

Warren County Health Director Brake added that education and community outreach has been essential, especially in providing information on the COVID-19 vaccination.

For the case of the Amazonian tribes, Quisto said headaches, diarrhea, malaria and conjunctivitis are common problems in the city without doctors. He is also concerned about taking care of their patients due to the shortage of healthcare professionals in their area.

The mother tongue, which has evolved over hundreds of years of isolation from the rest of Peru, is significantly distinct from the Spanish spoken in the rest of the country. From a story in the Star of the dayactivist Gilberto Inuma said the brigades had not visited the area for many years. He went on to say that these areas are really neglected.

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