Emergency Fund for Indigenous Peoples at Risk in the Amazon

On March 17th, 2020, heavy rains increased the flow of the Bobonaza, Pastaza and Arajuno rivers in the Ecuadorian Amazon, causing flooding along the rivers which affected several Kichwa communities. Houses, orchards and water systems were destroyed. People lost personal belongings, clothes, and tools. The communities devastated the most were Pakayaku and Sarayaku.

In April, shortly after the flood, an oil spill occurred in the northern provinces of Napo and Orellana, contaminating the waters of the Coca and Napo rivers. These rivers hold the water that many communities depend on for drinking, cooking, washing and for transportation as they live on the the riverbanks. We responded to this crisis need by providing water tanks as well as tools to distribute potable water from a water system coated in the Kichwa community of Florencia.

On March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global state of pandemic due to COVID-19. Through various publications, videos and demonstrations, we encouraged indigenous people to return to their traditional health system by isolating themselves and using medicinal plants. We also developed and disseminated materials about COVID-19 so that the people could take adequate measures to protect themselves.

Why do we need an emergency fund?

Very few indigenous communities and organizations in the Amazon have risk management plans in place to deal with potential natural disasters such as floods, pandemics and oil spills. Without the government structures of western society with emergency funds, these people are left without hope in times of crisis. The creation of an emergency fund will enable the following:

  1. The transportation of first aid supplies such as food, medicine, clothing, blankets, drinking water to critical areas without delay.
  2. An assessment of situations to petition for additional assistance, which may include: repair or reconstruction of houses or water systems, sharing knowledge and expertise in the development of natural herbal medicines, among other possibilities.
  3. The Covid-19 pandemic provided important lessons from which we must learn more. Although we cannot certify that the use of herbal remedies reduced or prevented the lethality of the virus, there is evidence that their traditional systems of health and medicine helped keep them safe.

The emergency fund will also provide individuals and families with better access to Western medicine in scenarios that traditional medicine cannot solve.

The Sacha Warmi team