Operation by the Federal Police (PF) and the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), in November 2022, targeted suspicions of misuse in the use of funds for medicines in the Yanomami area, where it was declared a health emergency by the federal government on Friday, 20. The suspicion was that only 30% of more than 90 types of medication supplied by one of the companies contracted by the local indigenous health district (DSEI-Y) would have been properly delivered.
An inspection by the MPF in July pointed out that the delivery of the vermifuge albendazole, for example, occurred in a much lower quantity than what appeared in the invoice, reports the Attorney General’s Office in a document to the Ministry of Health, in November. The MPF also says that it was necessary to charge several times for the DSEI-Y management to arrange for a new purchase of medicines.
“Data relating to coverage of treatment for verminosis show that the scheme implemented in the DSEI-Y left 10,193 children unattended, deepening the humanitarian tragedy of the Yanomami”, says the MPF, which asked for the appointment of an intervenor to manage the health district.
According to the MPF, there was “clear evidence that the same practice extends to other of the 95 drugs bid”, damaging the distribution of other items, such as Acyclovir, Folic Acid, Valproic Acid, Amoxicillin, Cephalexin, Ketoconazole, Chlorhexidine digluconate and Lidocaine . According to the document, the evidence suggests the participation of public and private agents in fraudulent practices. Between 2020 and last year, says the MPF, the DSEI-Y received more than BRL 200 million.
Operation Yoasi, by the PF and MPF, included the issuance of 10 search and seizure warrants by the 4th Federal Criminal Court of the Federal Court in Roraima.
Increase in malnutrition since 2021
The MPF warned of the health crisis in the Yanomami territory at least since 2021. In a recommendation from November of that year, the agency already demanded actions from the Ministry of Health to improve the service to the indigenous population and requested the reformulation of the work plan that had been being adopted until then. As causes for the request, he highlighted the worsening of malnutrition, infant mortality and malaria.
Signed by the Public Prosecutors Alisson Marugal (Roraima) and Fernando Merloto Soave (Amazonas), the document presents a series of indicators. In 2021, he highlights, the infant mortality rate reached the highest level in more than a decade and about half of children up to five years old were malnourished.
Information compiled by the MPF indicated that, in 2019, 117 infant deaths and 1,329 children were born alive in the Yanomami reserve, an infant mortality rate (IMR) of 88.04. In 2020, that index jumped to 112.38. In the following year, in the first three months of the year alone, there were 20 deaths for 150 births, a rate of 133.33, says the document.
The Yanomami Indigenous Land is the largest in the country, with an area of 9.6 million hectares (equivalent to Portugal). It is home to 30,400 indigenous people of the Yanomami ethnic groups – considered to have been in recent contact – and the Ye’kwana, from five linguistic groups. Basic care is provided by the Yanomami Special Indigenous Health District through 37 Base Centers, 78 basic health units and an Indigenous Health House.
The MPF document also points to a drop in doctors for the DSEI. In 2019, there were 21, a total that dropped to 20 in 2020. In 2021, there were only 16 (ideally 23). After charging the MPF, the department even increased this number.
On Saturday, the 21st, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) said that one of the priorities was to expand the capacity of the local airstrip, to facilitate the transport of teams. On a visit to Boa Vista, he also promised to eliminate illegal mining in the region, identified as one of the main threats to the native peoples of the Amazon.
The ministry said it was considering speeding up the public notice for the More Doctors Program to recruit graduates in the country or abroad to work in indigenous districts.
THE Estadão tried to contact this Sunday, 22, with former minister Marcelo Queiroga, from the Jair Bolsonaro (PL) government, to comment on suspected irregularities and the measures taken, but did not receive a response. The current management of the ministry states, in a note, that, in addition to declaring an emergency, it installed the Center for Emergency Operations in Public Health “as a national mechanism for the coordinated management of the response to the emergency at the national level”.
Flávio Dino, Minister of Justice, determined that there should be an inquiry to investigate genocide in the indigenous area. Former president Jair Bolsonaro was criticized during his term for weakening support bodies for indigenous peoples and for advocating the release of illegal mining in territories cared for by indigenous peoples.