First Yanomami death by Covid-19 registered in Brazil

Land conflict between indigenous groups and illegal miners turns deadly
Dislodged Yanomami group in Roraima. Photo: Emily Costa/Amazonia Real

On Thursday, Brazil registered the first Covid-19 death from the Yanomami indigenous tribe: a teenager named Alvanei Xirixana. The 15-year-old died after spending six days in intensive care in the northern city of Boa Vista, in Roraima state.

Reports say he contracted the virus in his home village of Rehebe. Located along the Uraricoera River, the area is used by wildcat gold miners to access the mineral-rich territory that forms part of the Yanomami community.

Young Alvanei’s death has raised concerns among the Yanomami people. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, at least 15 percent of the community’s population is said to have died during the “gold miner invasion,” a period in which illegal miners spread measles among the Yanomami’s villages. The teenager is the third indigenous person to die of Covid-19 in Brazil so far. In March, Euan Marshall explained how the coronavirus pandemic can lead to the decimation of indigenous communities in the country.