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Remote Amazon tribe decimated by epidemic braces for COVID-19

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  • Remote Amazon tribe decimated by epidemic braces for COVID-19


    Remote Amazon tribe decimated by epidemic braces for COVID-19
    Avoiding contact has proven difficult.
    By Neil Giardino
    24 May 2020, 06:04

    SEPAHUA, PERU -- Mario Dispupidiwa recalls a way of life that is only a distant memory now.

    "I watched my mother give birth in the forest and cradle the baby by the fire to keep it warm," he recalled. "We moved constantly from place to place."

    But then the loggers and oil workers arrived, bringing with them terrifying diseases without cure, ending that life forever.

    Dispupidiwa is a member of the Nahua tribespeople, who crossed a threshold into the modern world after their forced contact with the outside world in Peru's southeast Amazon nearly 40 years ago. In the years that followed, more than half of the Nahua died of influenza and whooping cough, for which they had no immunity, according to research by Peruvian anthropologist Beatriz Huertas.

    Indigenous tribes have suffered from contagious diseases dating back to 16th century European incursions into the Amazon basin. Today, as COVID-19 reaches some of the most remote corners of the globe, highly vulnerable tribal peoples like the Nahua, with limited contact with the outside world, are sealing off their isolated villages and bracing for the arrival of a deadly new pathogen.

    Although the Nahua have had sustained contact with society since the 1980s, they are still defined by Peru's government as a tribe in "initial contact" with the outside world. Numbering roughly 400, they live within a federally protected area called the Kugapakori Nahua Nanti Territorial Reserve...