This remote Amazon tribe makes its home on the border of the South American countries Brazil and Venezuela. The indigenous people are so isolated from mainstream society that they are at risk of contracting a host of serious diseases because of their low resistance to illness. As of Friday, the measles outbreak had sent 23 tribe members to the hospital, with hundreds more at risk of developing the deadly disease.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health blames the ongoing political and socio-economical crisis in Venezuela for the measles outbreak. As the government of Venezuela continues to lose control, a massive shortage of the measles vaccine has resulted.
The plight of the Yanomami tribe was documented on Thursday when the nongovernmental organization Watinaba tweeted about the ongoing crisis, complete with pictures of tribe members suffering as a result of the outbreak. The Watinaba group pleaded for vaccines for the Yanomami people in an effort to control the spread of the potentially fatal disease.
According to Sarah Shenker with Survival International, this outbreak is particularly concerning because it could put the whole population at risk of extinction. In addition to the low resistance to illness, the tribe is at risk because of low vaccination rates. Unfortunately for the Yanomami tribe, measles is highly infectious, spread merely through coughing or breathing. At the onset of the disease, symptoms include a runny nose, eye inflammation, rash, and a high fever. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), death and other serious complications occur in approximately 30 percent of the cases.
With a current count of about 35,000 tribespeople, the Yanomami is the largest semi-isolated tribe in South America. Their protected territory covers both the remote jungles and mountainous regions of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil.