After a Month of Rains Brazil’s Amazon Residents Are Isolated, in Need of Medicine

Flooded Roraima Brazil’s Ministry of Health sent seven tons of medicine to the state of Roraima where record flooding has taken place. The shipment of basic medicines, diagnostic kits and some equipment like gloves and syringes will supply up to 7,500 people for a period of around three months.

The ministry has warned the population of the danger of diseases, such as leptospirosis and rotavirus, and emphasized the need to purify water carefully before drinking it.

Meanwhile, Petrobras is studying alternative means of getting fuel to the state, many parts of which are completely isolated. A complicating factor is that Roraima depends on thermoelectric power plants that burn diesel fuel for its electricity.

In Brazilian capital Brasilia, the minister of National Integration, Fernando Bezerra Coelho, announced that the state of Roraima will receive 15 million reais (US$ 9.45 million) to assist the population and begin repairs of the damage caused by the heavy rains.

Coelho said most of the funds, 10 million reais (US$ 6.3 million), will go to recovering roads so isolated areas can be reached as soon as possible. The minister admitted that the amount allocated could increase depending on needs.

At the same time, Brasilia said it is prepared to distribute 10,000 food baskets to the state.

Roraima has had heavy rain for most of the last 30 days. The state governor, José de Anchieta Junior, points out that the rainy season in the region will last until August.

After reaching record levels, the Rio Branco, the river that runs through the capital of the state of Roraima, Boa Vista, has begun to drop but there are still locations that are isolated and run the risk of running out of supplies. The Rio Branco rose 10.2 meters (33.5 feet) above its normal level.

The Armed Forces have put 430 men on alert to help if needed after local authorities declared a public calamity. Many of the soldiers are from so-called border platoons that are specially trained for local conditions in the Amazon.

One thing the soldiers have is boats and they will be needed as transportation has become a serious problem not only because of the flooding. Local inhabitants face exorbitant prices for any travel as local boat owners take advantage of the situation.

Army helicopters have already delivered essential food and medicine items to isolated towns.

Meanwhile, the Navy is sending in two ships, one of them a hospital ship and the other for contact with isolated riverside communities. The Air Force has sent a cargo plane with 10 tons of food supplies (all of these have their base of operations in Manaus).

The Roraima Fire Department says its immediate priority is to assist those left homeless or forced to leave their homes (around 1,500 people are in that situation at the moment).

Firemen are making a special effort to get electricity flowing again. The main source of electricity in Roraima is from thermoelectric power plants that run on diesel. The problem is getting diesel fuel in on roads that have been flooded and severely damaged.

The weather forecast in Roraima for the next few days is partly cloudy with some sunshine and scattered rain showers. The good news is that the weather is not expected to make things worse.

With the arrival of a boat carrying 1.1 million liters of fuel in Caracaraí on Sunday (June 12), the supply situation in the state of Roraima has begun to improve. According to the president of the union of state gas stations in Roraima, Abel Mesquita, most of the June 12 shipment was sent on to the state capital, Boa Vista, and as another shipment is expected soon (with the fuel staying in Caracaraí, the state’s fourth largest city), the situation will soon be normalized.

A state of public calamity was declared in Roraima on June 5 due to rains that have caused severe flooding. The Rio Branco (river) reached record levels and is only now beginning to drop.

Roraima is Brazil’s northernmost state (although it straddles the equator, like two other Brazilian states (Pará and Amapá), the capital of Roraima, Boa Vista, is the only capital city in Brazil that is in the Northern Hemisphere; the capital of the state of Amapa, Macapa, lies on the equator).

Roraima has a population of 450,000 in an area of 224,000 square kilometers (slightly smaller than Minnesota), for a population density of 2 per square kilometer (population density in Minnesota is 25 per square kilometer).

Still in the North of Brazil, although in a different field, there are news that the recent executions of environmental activists will be investigated and the perpetrators punished, according to declarations by minister of Agrarian Development, Afonso Florence.

“The fact that in the past such crimes may have gone unpunished does not mean that will be the case now. We will not accept impunity,” said minister Florence.

As part of the government’s effort to avoid other similar crimes that are caused by land disputes, the minister announced the creation of two land deed offices in the state of Amazonas.

One, located in Humaitá, on the border with the state of Rondônia, and the other at Boca do Acre, near the state of Acre. According to the minister, the offices will speed up the process of land deed registration.

Minister Florence also pointed out that a total of 530 million reais (US$ 334 million) earmarked for land reform expropriations is still available. The money was not part of budget cuts that totaled 50 billion reais (US$ 31,5 billion) and will be used by the government as part of its action plans to alleviate tensions in areas of land conflicts.

The minister also discussed the question of foreigners buying large areas of farmland in Brazil. The matter, he said, was under investigation by the Office of Federal Prosecutors (Advocacia-Geral da União – AGU) and that he expected the AGU to issue a legal brief on the subject soon.

Florence also discussed the changing concept of land reform over the last few years, saying that the Dilma Rousseff administration is perfecting the process begun during the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva government.



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