A group of indigenous healers in a Brazilian rainforest state are fighting the coronavirus pandemic with medicinal plants — as the country battles the third-largest outbreak in the world.
Five men from the Satere Mawe tribe, traveling in a small motorboat, are trying to help others survive without relying on the saturated health system in Amazonas, a massive northwestern state covered almost entirely by the Amazon rainforest.
“We’ve been treating our symptoms with our own traditional remedies, the way our ancestors taught us,” Andre Satere Mawe, a tribal leader from a small village on the far outskirts of the state capital, Manaus, told Agence France-Presse.
“We’ve each used the knowledge handed down to us to gather treatments and test them, using each one against a different symptom of the disease.”
A Satere-Mawe indigenous child sits beside a man preparing medicinal herbs.AFP via Getty Images
Remedies created by the tribe include teas made from the bark of the carapanauba tree, which has anti-inflammatory properties, and from the saracuramira tree, which has anti-malarial properties — as well as mango peel, mint and honey.
Villagers who suspect they had the coronavirus said the natural remedies have helped.
“I was feeling weak, it felt like I had something in my lungs, I couldn’t breathe,” Valda Ferreira de Souza, a 35-year-old artisan, told AFP. “I took a home-made syrup, which made me feel a lot better.”
Satere-Mawe indigenous people prepare medicinal herbs to treat people with symptoms of COVID-19 in the Wakiru community, in Taruma neighbourhood, a rural area west of Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil.AFP via Getty Images
Despite Amazonas’ remoteness, it has been heavily hit by the contagion, with 22,132 confirmed cases and nearly 1,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The rapid spread has raised concern for the region’s indigenous people, who have been heavily impacted by diseases brought in by outsiders in the past.
The virus has so far reached 40 indigenous groups in the state, with 537 positive cases and 102 deaths, according to the Brazilian Indigenous Peoples’ Association.
In Brazil overall, 271,628 cases and nearly 18,000 deaths have been reported.
Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro — who opposes coronavirus lockdown measures meant to keep populations apart — has promoted the use of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine to treat the coronavirus.
In São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, workers are digging mass graves to keep up with the overwhelming number of deaths.
With Post wires