20 September 2006
Colombia: Epidemic Hits Nomadic Amazon Tribe
The nomadic Nukak tribe, who fled their jungle homes after being
caught up in Colombia's civil war, have been hit by a flu epidemic.
Almost a quarter of the tribe have fallen ill, and at least three
have been taken to hospital in the nearest town.
Experts fear that further epidemics are likely unless the Nukak can
be returned to their own territory. Flu and malaria have already
killed half the tribe since they were first contacted in 1988; just
500 Nukak survive.
The crisis comes after the Nukak refugees were moved from their
encampment on the edge of a town to a new home in the jungle.
Their new camp is just 2% of the size of their own territory and they
continue to live in fear of armed conflict between the Colombian
army, paramilitaries, and guerrillas. Health experts had warned that
settling 200 Nukak in one place was likely to lead to outbreaks of
disease, since traditionally the Nukak live in small, nomadic groups.
The Nukak's wild food is in short supply at their new camp; the
forest there does not contain any of the trees necessary to make the
blowpipes and poison that they need to hunt meat, and there are few
fish in the rivers. Their own territory contains abundant natural
Survival's Director, Stephen Corry, said today, 'It is absolutely
essential that the Colombian government finds a way to let the Nukak
return to their own land, otherwise they will not survive in the long