Houses, crops and livestock were destroyedentirely; emergency aid will reach approximately 3000 indigenous people,as well as people from the general population.
The year 2021 started with great hardship for the people of Acre. The state was already confronting boththe COVID-19 pandemic and an outbreak of dengue, when, in the middle of February, the people of Acre were hit bygreat floods which affected more than 130 thousand people, many of whom were displaced or made homeless. In the midst of these chaotic scenesare indigenous people,who were already suffering the loss of their rights before the pandemic.
The floods led to landslides in villages, houses were obliterated, crops and livestock were entirely destroyed, bridges torn down by the water– hindering access to specific areas – and, when placed in temporary shelters by local governments, people from the same community were separated from one another.
Given the insufficient, or lack of, aid from municipal, state or federal governments, grassroots movements have turned to the Ecumenical Coordination of Service(CoordenadoriaEcumênica de Serviço: CESE) for support. Thus far, CESE has sent approximately BRL 160 thousand to these organizations for emergency support. Another BRL 40 thousand has been ring-fenced and will be sent out in March.
Vanessa Pugliese, CESE Projects and Training Advisor, noted that the grave situation in Acre is amplified by the need to face several problems simultaneously – the COVID-19 pandemic, the dengue outbreak and the current socio-political and economic situation in Brazil.
“CESE stands in solidarity with the affected populations and is allocating some of its funds to emergency aid, to guarantee food securityparticularly. We expect to contribute BRL 400 thousand to projects that involve vulnerable populations, such as indigenous people, riverine communities, women from the countryside and the city, populations in urban peripheries, and others.”
Approximately 3000 people from various indigenous peoples – including the Madja, Shanenawa, Apurinã, Jamamadi, Jamináwa– and the general population will directly benefit from this emergency support. The funds are aimed at purchasing staple food baskets; hygiene, cleaning and health materials; agricultural tools; fuel and other items.
Other projects are being analysed. So far, there are seven beneficiary organizations: the Association of Kaxinawá Rubber Tappers, Producers and Artisans from Nova Olinda (Associação de Seringueiros, Produtores e ArtesãosKaxinawá de Nova Olinda: ASPAKNO); the Association of the Shanenawa Indigenous People from the Shane Kaya Village (Associação dos PovosIndígenasShanenawa da Aldeia Shane Kaya:SHANEKAYA); the Indigenous Missionary Council – Western Amazon Region (ConselhoIndigenistaMissionário – Regional Amazônia Ocidental: CIMI -AO); thePro-Indian Commission of Acre (ComissãoPró-Índio do Acre: CPI-AC); the Pastoral Land Commission Acre (Comissão Pastoral da Terra Acre: CPT-ACRE); the Institute of Women from the Amazon (InstitutoMulheres da Amazônia: IMA); and the Organization of Apurinã and JamamadiIndigenous People (Organização dos PovosIndígenasApurinã e Jamamadi: OPIAJBAM) from Boca do Acre in the Amazon, although the last two have not yet received the funds they requested.
Most of these organizations are based in the municipalities of Rio Branco and Feijó, where approximately 16.9 thousand of the more than 130 thousand people affected by flooding in the state reside. However, their activities and solidarity extend to communities from other towns. The CPT has distributed staple food baskets to families from Rio Branco, Porto Walter, MarechalThaumaturgo and SenaMadureira. Support will also reach the towns of Cruzeiro do Sul, Boca do Acre and Pauini – the last two situated in the southern region of the Amazon.
In all, the CPT-ACRE mobilized 430 staple food baskets for distribution to families in these towns. Darlene Braga, the organization’s Projects Coordinator, explained that she has witnessed a number of difficult scenes and heard from some people that this support was the first from any institutionto reachthem. “I heard from one gentleman that he ‘lost everything of the nothing that he had’. We’ve never experienced anything like this before at the CPT; this support is essential for these people to be able to catch their breath. Some simply celebrate the fact that they have something to eat on the day,” she exclaimed.
She noted that the needs that grew out of this moment went beyond the CPT’s established mission, which is to fight for land. “If they don’t eat now, I don’t know if they’ll be able to fight for land in the future. At this moment, we’re doing what is needed,” she said. The organization is linked to various other fronts to support the affected families – the Youth Pastoral, unions, parish groups, and others.
The Shane Kaya Village, located in Feijó, was affected by landslides which caused the destruction of six local families’ homes – something that TâniaShanenawa, President of SHANEKAYA, fears may happen again in the near future.
She explained that there is a stream near the community. It fills up and dries out more rapidly than the rivers and causes land erosion in its proximity – which ends up leading to landslides. “We’ve seen that this erosion is already getting closer to other families. We hope it doesn’t advance,” she said.
Tâniatells a similar tale to that described by the CPT-ACRE: the direct support from CESE was the first received by many people. “We received information that government support would arrive, but so far now nothing has come through. CESE was the first, the families were so glad to receive this support,” she noted. The association used the funds to distribute staple food baskets to all the families in the community and to pay for the purchase of materials and labour to reconstruct the homes that were destroyed.
The CIMI-AO initiative extended itsemergency support to indigenous peoples located in the SenaMadureiraregion, where 2.5 thousand families were displaced and another 1465 becamehomeless as a result of the floods, and in Santa Rosa dos Purus, where 1.9 thousand people were affected. Sena Madureira was one of the towns most affected by the floods in Acre. In all, more than 27.6 thousand people in the municipality were affected.
RosenildaNunesPadilha, member of CIMI-AO’s Collegiate Committee, reported that the floods took many people by surprise. “There haven’t been floods like this, which devastated the territories, the crops, for a while. Some indigenous people have been transferred to the town, others preferred to stay on their boats, others stayed on ranch land, because it is higher land,” she noted.
The CIMI is planning a total of 90 staple food baskets to donate to affected families. “We bought bags and boxes of food and put the baskets together ourselves. We delivered them to those indigenous people who have gone back to their villages. In some cases, we delivered baskets to community leaders, who then distributed them,” she said.
All the projects supported by this initiative are emergency in nature. They also have certain objectives in common: the search for dignity, food security and the resumption of sustainable economic development activities for indigenous people.