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The re-emergence of yellow fever in Brazil

Following an 180-day state of emergency declared on Friday 13 January in Brazil, according to international media reports on Wednesday 18 January at least 30 people were reported dead due to a yellow fever outbreak in the south eastern state of Minas Gerais.

According to Professor Marcia Chame, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation - a scientific institution for research and development in biomedical sciences - the outbreak was likely to have been caused by 2015’s collapse of a dam at the Samarco mine in the city of Mariana, resulting in more than 60 million square meters of pollution to leak into more than 620km of rivers.

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Christian Aid partner MAB report that people affected by the disaster are suffering from various diseases such as skin, lung and stomach problems.

In the city of Barra Longa, more than 400 cases of dengue were reported in 2016, a stark contrast to the previous year when only 3 cases were registered.

As a result, MAB have created a health group to discuss the problems and to create an advocacy plan to both guarantee the health of people affected, and to demand an immediate and independent public enquiry into the connection between the disaster and the subsequent health outbreaks.

Brazil had been considered free from yellow fever since 1942. There is now the distinct possibility that this current outbreak will spread throughout the country, in addition to the existing zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses, which are already affecting the most vulnerable people in Brazil.

This scandal has strong links with government attempts to change the laws around environmental licenses last December, in which they was specified that there would be:

  • no requirement for licences for specific activities that may cause contaminations

  • the creation of a self-declaration licence

  • permission for states and municipalities to be flexible with their compliance with environmental laws

  • exemption for financial institutions from the liability of their investments

Our partner CPI was among more than 200 civil society organisations to write letters protesting the these changes.

MAB have expressed grave concern that these measures will result in similar disasters such as the Mariana dam collapse.


About the author

Platform2: Debi Millar

Sarah Roure is Christian Aid's Programme Officer in Brazil.

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