Cultural Shock and Suicide Plague Brazilian Indians

José Giacomo Baccarin, secretary of Food and Nutritional Security of the Brazil’s Ministry of Social Development and Hunger Alleviation, told the Brazilian Senate that the federal government has succeeded in reducing the indices of malnutrition and infant mortality among Indians.

Baccarin was one of the people invited by the Senate Human Rights and Participatory Legislation Commission to testify at a public hearing, earlier this month, on the death of indigenous children in villages in the region of Dourados, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.


The president of the commission, Senator Juvêncio da Fonseca of Mato Grosso do Sul, said that Brazilian Indians are suffering from much greater problems, ranging from culture shock to the large number of suicides – in the last five years, 242 Indians are thought to have been suicide victims in the region.


Nevertheless, according to figures presented by the coordinator of the National Health Foundation (Funasa) in Mato Grosso do Sul, Gaspar Francisco Hickmann, malnutrition is a problem that has been declining year by year in Indian villages.


In 2003, the index of malnutrition among Indians was 26%; last year it was down to 19%, and, in January, 2005, 16%.


“This is the result of the installation of public water supplies in 100% of the [Indian] villages in the state and the intensive efforts of the 47 health agents and 18 multidisciplinary teams that act in the region,” Hickmann affirmed.


Dourados has the only recuperation center for dehydrated Indian children in the country, a privilege not even enjoyed by whites. The center serves children from the state’s 70 villages.


Translation: David Silberstein
Agência Brasil

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