Brazil Armed Forces Support Health Expedition to Assist Amazon Tribes

Brazil Armed Forces Support Health Expedition to Assist Amazon Tribes

By Dialogo
September 28, 2015

Congratulations. May it serve as an example for other countries. Hi, I am an Environmental Federal Agent. I have observed the Brazilian Army supporting voluntary projects and providing very valuable and important services to people with no means for survival, living in remote places far from the reach of political leaders, living a precarious life in the Amazon rainforest. The healthcare in Brazil is the worst it can be, but the love and consideration for others is still strong. In Brazil today, where on a daily basis, we witness the military police killing people in large cities, mostly youth from the periphery, simulating self-defense, the work of the Brazilian Army, saving lives amidst the forest is a contrast... it brings us some encouragement and hope that the country's security forces are mobilised to defend life, social well-being and the rule of law. Congratulations to those professionals who have worked or are working on humanitarian expeditions. The integration of the Armed Forces with the needy population greatly benefits the communities in need of health care. I am a retired nursing assistant. I work in administration in the MTE. I'm glad that there are still compassionate people who bring physical and mental support to the needy. Congratulations. I am Reserve Parachutist No. 25046, year 1972, commander of the Gal Brigade. Hugo de Andrade Abreu. There you are compatriots. I'm happy to know at the moment that our Army is involved in this noble mission to save lives in Amazonia. Congratulations. The agent needs to improve his Portuguese. The Armed Forces can't manage to fight small time Brazilian crooks. Now, they want to try and put things in order. That's just ridiculous, right. When the Armed Forces do not have a purpose in a 'Military Doctrine', there are many political or economic groups willing to use them for purposes other than the nature of their organisation and training. - by Humberto Castello Branco. In Amazon territory belonging to Brazil, there are more than 20 million Brazilian inhabitants. What is strange in Brazil is that there are so many organizations financed with significant resources, but very undefined purposes to defend some Brazilians, according to their ancestral origins, already well integrated and suffer from the same shortcomings of millions of citizens in the same area. Thomas Friedman, in "The World is Flat," sees no more room to isolate countries, regions and peoples, and in the next 50 years, "uncivilised" Indians will be rigorously adapted to the cultural standards of the entire world. However, their descendants will have the privilege of living in large territorial areas inherited from their parents. 4/24/2013• Terra - Interethnic clashes leave 21 dead in Chinese region of Xinjiang. THIS IS WHAT THE MEDIA NEEDS TO SHOW INSTEAD OF THE WAR AGAINST DRUG TRAFFICKERS IN THE FAVELAS. THERE ARE ANONYMOUS HEROES THAT PEOPLE SHOULD GET TO KNOW. WHY NOT ON THE TV PROGRAM, FANTÁSTICO, ON SUNDAYS? Congratulations to all the anonymous and voluntary people who bring available assistance to our needy, indigenous brethren in the far corners of Brazil. Bravo Zulu. It's great to help those people in need of healthcare. By doing that, you'll be blessed. Thank you, Santos, for so much joy Helping those in need is an act of kindness. If people showed a little love to others, the world would be different. How wonderful...South America showing the world how easy it is to live in unity, taking care of the needy in their homelands! Congratulations Chile, congratulations Colombia, congratulations to the big and powerful Brazil. I am proud to be Brazilian, and I am very proud of neighbouring countries like these. It's great to see our brothers being welcomed in their homelands. GOD BLESS YOU ALL. RIVA, don't do that. Don't talk bad about the respected Armed Forces of Brazil. I make this point because I was trained by the Armed Forces of Brazil to defend my country and I'm letting you know that the military cannot intervene in urban conflicts involving thugs, but instead, in conflicts involving fighting. We are also trained to take care of our countrymen, as you have just seen in the missions completed. The ones who have the obligation and duty to fight the thugs that you mention are the military and civil police, ok? My name is Neves of the Command Platoon of the 51st Jungle Infantry Battalion in the Amazon in 1977. Warm regards to all. Congratulations to all who participated in this mission. It's so beautiful to see people showing love to others! They are bringing so much good to these villages! Congratulations to the organisers. May God bless them! Good. Keep up this wonderful project. I very much admire it. Congratulations. May our politicians lead by these examples and be ashamed of themselves. Thank you Armed Forces of Brazil... Let this subject be an example for our leaders pursuing better living conditions for deserving citizens. This is really good. My comment is that Globo News only talks about France, even with a lot going on in our country with the loss of people in Minas Gerais. They don't talk about that. It's quite a shame. They're a bunch of ass-kissers.

The work of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and the Brazilian Army (EB) was crucial to the success of the latest mission of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Expedicionários da Saúde
(Health Expeditions), which provided surgeries and other medical care to residents of 35 villages of the Yanomami ethnic group, located in the country’s far north.

It was the first time the expedition reached the area, popularly known as Cabeça de Cachorro
[Dog Head] due to the shape of its border with with Colombia and Venezuela, which is to 6,500 indigenous Brazilians. They live in hard-to-reach or isolated areas in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, 852 kilometers from Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, where the EB’s 5th Special Border Platoon is housed.

“I work in a search-and-rescue squadron, and our routine is to save lives,” said Air Force First Lt. Tiago Vargas Nascimento Silva, a pilot from the Harpia Squadron of the 7th/8th Aviation Group who took part in seven days of medical consultations during the mission between July 31 and August 8. “It’s gratifying to be able to contribute in some way to improve the quality of their lives.”

This was the 33rd edition of the Operating in the Amazon mission, dubbed the Maturacá Expedition; the NGO and the Armed Forces conduct several such operations each year.

Military helicopters transport tribes’ people

First Lt. Silva piloted a helicopter to transport 365 passengers between tribal communities and mission headquarters in Maturacá, where Expedicionários da Saúde
had set up a field hospital to provide medical treatment to the indigenous population. “The region where the villages are located is mountainous, and navigation in the area needs to be accurate.”

The tribes are in the vicinity of the Pico da Neblina
, the highest mountain in Brazil, which reaches 2,294 meters.

“The use of helicopters is ideal for this type of mission, particularly to reach the most isolated indigenous tribes. Only rotary wing aircraft or small planes are able to land in these places.”

Every day, the FAB transported indigenous Brazilians from villages in the areas of Inanbú, Maiá, Marauirá, Marari, Médio and Alto Paduari, Cachoeira do Araká, Araká, and Ajuricaba to the field hospital. A total of 239 procedures were performed, the majority of which were cataract and hernia surgeries, and 2,863 consultations were carried out in the areas of pediatrics, gynecology, orthopedics, and dentistry, with each day lasting from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to meet the demand for services. FAB aircraft took off at sunrise to pick up patients, who could be flown from the villages in groups of 20; the round-trip flights lasted approximately 50 minutes.

Saving ‘highly debilitated’ patients

As a consequence of the indigenous patients’ health needs, the mission’s medical professionals worked virtually around the clock.

“We don’t stop,” Marcia Abdala said. “The operating room is constantly busy. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, given that we don’t know when we’ll return to the region. We saved many indigenous Brazilians who arrived in highly debilitated conditions. If necessary, we would also transport the patient to a hospital in the region.”

Local residents who underwent surgery stayed in Maturacá overnight as part of their post-operative recovery. The Yanomami have had a lot of problems with cataracts, which also limit their ability to work, according to indigenous Brazilian Davi Kopenawa Ianomâmi, of the Yanomami Association of Roraima and Amazonas.

“We have the Picumã mosquito here, which comes from the river heads,” he said. “They bite the indigenous people and cause cataracts. The doctors heal us.”

Their cataract treatments have proven effective.

“They are able to see the day after getting the surgery,” Abdala said. “Then we ask what they are going to do, and the answer is always, ‘I'm going to hunt, to fish.’”

Post-expedition ritual

At the end of the expedition, indigenous leaders held a celebration in accordance with their ethnic group’s thanksgiving rituals.

“The indigenous people painted themselves. We gathered in a circle and received their spiritual leader. It was a very strong experience. We cried, and the chiefs said in their language that an alliance had been established between us (the expedition) and the Yanomami people.”

The mission was important to the region's people who find it difficult to obtain medical care in their villages, according to Kopenawa. “The expeditionary volunteers are the only ones who do this.”

That effort proves a challenging task. Armed Forces officials and representatives of Expedicionários da Saúde
began planning the operation in April with an initial travel expedition, called a precursor, to the target region to obtain the indigenous leaders’ authorization. Gaining that permission is a sign that they've earned the trust of the local residents.

“If they do not want us to come in, we don’t do anything,” Abdala explained. “Given that they already know us and like us, after 12 years in operation, there aren’t any problems. Our name is well-known among the ethnic groups, but the beginning was difficult because the leaders did not believe in us.”

With the approval of the villages, the NGO contacts institutions linked to the state and federal governments, including the National Foundation for Indigenous Affairs and the Special Indigenous Health District, as well as the Indigenous District Council. The Ministry of Defense is the final link, who they call for support before the FAB and EB are included in the plan. The Armed Forces have been supporting the NGO since 2005.

With the most recent expedition, the project has provided a total of 5,460 surgeries and 35,092 medical consultations since inception.

Surgical mission

Mobilization for the Maturacá Expedition began on July 17 when the C-105 Amazonas of the 1st/9th Arara Aviation Group (GAV), based in Manaus, flew to São Gabriel da Cachoeira loaded with 15 tons of food, materials, and equipment. There, they stored the provisions at the 5th Jungle Infantry Battalion (BIS), an Army unit based in the area.

The NGO and the Military’s plan included the EB mobilizing 100 Troops from the 5th BIS to assist with transportation to and from the villages. The FAB also assigned 40 Troops from the 1st/9th GAV Arara and 7th/8th GAV Harpia, based in Manaus, and the 1st/2nd GAV Condor, based in Rio de Janeiro; their coordination was carried out by the General Command of Air Operations, which manages the entire fleet of aircraft.

Members of the Amazon project, including 20 physicians, five dentists, 10 nurses and 20 support staff, embarked on July 31, also from Campinas, covering the 3,400 kilometers to São Gabriel da Cachoeira on board the FAB’s C-99. The C-99 transported the expeditionary volunteers to Maturacá, headquarters of the Special Border Platoon. Meanwhile, logistical support was provided by the 12th Supply Battalion, part of the 12th Military Region, and the Amazon Military Command Vessel Center, both in Manaus. In São Gabriel da Cachoeira, about 100 Soldiers from the 5th BIS provided assistance.

“Any action that seeks to improve the quality of life of Brazilians has backing and support of the Army, especially in border areas and in the poorest areas,” said Colonel Dower Jerônimo Morini Borges, Chief of Staff of the 12th Military Region of the Brazilian Army.

Abdala compared the operation in Maturacá to the organization and execution of the Olympic Games. The field hospital is equipped with the latest equipment to perform non-invasive ophthalmology procedures and minor general surgery.

“We set up a true hospital complex in the middle of the jungle, which is why it is so important to have the support of the FAB and the EB...It’s cutting-edge technology for indigenous communities in the middle of the jungle, where nothing is usually brought in.”

The volunteer doctors are experienced members of the medical teams at some of the country’s major hospitals, such as the Sírio Libanês and Albert Einstein hospitals in São Paulo.

“The doctors often say that operating in the field hospital or at the Sírio Libanês hospital is the same thing: It’s all top of the line, and the doctors work hard,” Abdala explained, adding that there are over 250 volunteers registered to participate in missions.

The infrastructure at the field hospital included small offices, tents with two operating rooms, waiting areas for patients, toilets, showers, and areas for overnight stays and meals. Residents of local communities used forest materials to help build barracks, which are now used by the village.