Deadly measles epidemic hits isolated Yanomami tribe

June 28, 2018

The Yanomami are the largest relatively isolated indigenous people in the Amazon. © Fiona Watson/Survival

This page was created in 2018 and may contain language which is now outdated.

A measles epidemic has hit an isolated Amazon tribe on the Brazil-Venezuela border which has very little immunity to the disease.

The devastating outbreak has the potential to kill hundreds of tribespeople unless emergency action is taken.

Pictures of Yanomami affected by the current measles outbreak.
© Wataniba

The Yanomami communities where the outbreak has occurred are some of the most isolated in the Amazon.

The Yanomami have previously been ravaged by outbreaks of deadly diseases following invasions of their territory by gold miners. © Antonio Ribeiro/Survival

But thousands of gold miners have invaded the region, and they are a likely source of the epidemic. Despite repeated warnings, the authorities have taken little effective action to remove them.

In Brazil, at least 23 Indians have visited a hospital, but most of those affected are far from medical care.

Previous disease outbreaks killed 20% of the Yanomami in Brazil. © Antonio Ribeiro/Survival

Survival International is calling for authorities in Venezuela to provide immediate medical assistance to these remote communities.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today: “When tribal people experience common diseases like measles or flu which they’ve never known before many of them die, and whole populations can be wiped out. These tribes are the most vulnerable peoples on the planet. Urgent medical care is the only thing standing between these communities and utter devastation.”

The Venezuelan NGO Wataniba has released further details on the outbreak (in Spanish).