Known as the Vale do Javari Task Force, and coordinated by Brazil’s National Health Foundation (Funasa, Fundação Nacional de Saúde), a group of 26 Brazilian health agents have reduced cases of malaria to almost zero since July in an area in the Amazon rainforest near the borders of Colombia, Peru and Brazil.
The Brazilian part of the area is the municipality of Atalaia do Norte. The whole area is populated by more than four thousand Marubo Indians.
The task force was set up to respond to an emergency situation and when it went into action on July 21, no less than 631 Indians had malaria. Today exactly one Indian has malaria in Atalaia do Norte.
Also actively participating in the task force are representatives of the state (Amazonas) Health Vigilance Foundation (FVS), the Brazilian army and the Coordination of Indian Organizations in the Brazilian Amazon (Coiab).
It seems the problem is truly international. Besides the Indians, emigrants from Colombia have been infected with malaria when they move into the Javari Valley looking for work.
“The location is a malaria transmission center, especially in the Peruvian area,” explains Ligia del Pilar Perez, who works with Vector Transmitted Diseases.
“The region has difficulties in diagnosing, treating and controlling the disease.” Perez explains that Peru is paying the expenses of the task force at the moment, but she believes other members of the Amazon and Andes community, such as Venezuela and Ecuador, should join the effort.
“All the countries involved have funds from the Pan-American Health Organization to combat malaria. They should use those funds in the Javari Valley region.”