An indigenous tribe’s COVID-19 court victory in Ecuador comes too little, too late
The triumph by the Waorani indigenous community came 27 days after they filed a motion.
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The Waorani Indigenous community of Quito, Ecuador has won a lawsuit against the government demanding them to take urgent precautionary measures to better protect their community against COVID-19 sweeping through their territory in the Amazon rainforest.
The decision took place on June 18, 2020, after a provincial court ruled in their favor.
The government must now take action to contain the virus in Waorani territory and protect the uncontacted nations of Tagaeri and Taromenane, whose territory borders Waorani land.
COVID-19 cases have been increasing in numbers across Ecuador’s Amazon in June.
According to CONFENAIE, the Amazon’s Indigenous federation, there have been 649 cases and 24 deaths as of June 23, which has affected seven of the 11 tribes that live in the rainforest.
The vast majority of these cases are within the Kichwa and Waorani territories.
Indigenous communities living in the rainforest are especially vulnerable to the virus because they don’t have access to hospitals or sufficient medication, putting their elders at high risk.
An Indigenous Waorani leader, Nemonte Nenquimo, said that the government has been consistently ignoring their requests over the last few months to assist the community with testing and monitoring the virus.
“We have suffered a lot, this illness isn’t easy. It’s not like any other illness. The Ministry of Health has to coordinate with us. They need to be more transparent, and as soon as possible, so support can arrive, so people can isolate, and actually reduce the contagion,” she said.
The Waorani community filed a lawsuit on May 20, demanding that precautionary measures be taken to ensure their rights to health and life.
The lawsuit was directed at Ecuador’s President, Lenín Moreno, The Ministry of Health, The Secretariat of Human Rights, The Ministry of Environment and Water, and the Attorney General’s Office.
The provincial court ruling requires The Ministry of Health to coordinate with Waorani leadership to provide medical supplies and send medical teams with intercultural experience to conduct testing and return the results.
It also requires The Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion to provide food and other essential supplies to the communities, as many of them have been impacted so badly that they can no longer hunt or fish as they normally do.
Lina María Espinosa, the lawyer for the Waorani people, says that it is a bittersweet victory because the decision came 27 days after they filed the motion. “What we were trying to avoid, has already begun to happen,” she told Mongabay by phone
Nemonte said that the community will be watching the government closely to make sure it complies with the recent ruling.