Kandozi tribe ravaged by disease and neglect

November 30th, 2009

Peru’s subsidiary of the WWF has warned that over 60% of the ethnic Kandozi people in the Peruvian Amazon are dying from the ravages of Hepatitis B and neglect from the Peruvian state.

Although focused on environmental conservation, WWF Peru, a subsidiary of the well-known Swiss organisation, found itself obliged to publicly “reveal” the emergency facing the Kandozi, a people the group has approached to reorder the fisheries in the Pastaza River Basin and Rimache lake areas in the department of Loreto.

The environmental health specialist from WWF Peru, Gianina Lucana, said the situation in this community is alarming because many in the tribe have “severe anemia, bleeding, typical signs of hepatitis B – some already suffering cirrhosis”.

A study by the National Institute of Health developed in 1996 revealed that 60 percent of the natives had hepatitis B and five years later the disease had become epidemic, as the Peruvian government launched a vaccination campaign to newborns with the help of Unicef.

But according Lucana, this initiative has stalled since last year and does not cover care for adults affected with hepatitis.

According to a statement issued by infectious diseases specialist Cesar Ramal, 80% of the natives are affected by Hepatitis B, and their life expectancy will be reduced significantly if they do not receive treatment.

The representative for WWF Peru explained that a comprehensive health plan costing about ten million dollars is needed to alleviate the suffering and save the lives of the Kandozi, treatments that generally costs $3,500 per month per patient.

In the region there are only four medical centres for fifty communities. Health workers earn less than $100 per month.

Despite the indifference the government shows to indigenous Amazonians, it is often demanded of them that they consider themselves Peruvian citizens, albeit in the words of the president “second class citizens”, and hand over their forests and their lives for oil and gas exploration by large multi-national corporations.

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