In the dusty and parched villages in the north of Argentina, children have been dying from malnutrition and illnesses caused by insufficient access to clean water and food, despite living in one of the richest economies in Latin America.
The leaders of their communities said that as of January 2020, 8 children have died from hunger in an isolated indigenous area located in the northwest of the Salta province, which is also the poorest province in the country.
According to Wichi community chief, Valerio Cobos, their community is losing its children and the people’s extreme poverty is a consequence of white repression on indigenous people during the last century.
Argentinean Children Are Dying from Hunger & Lack of Water
According to Cobos, 8 kids died of hunger and 2 others from health issues caused by lack of clean water and food.
Cobos is the leader of around 50 families which live on the outskirt of the northern town Embarcacion.
The children’s deaths have prompted the government to declare a health emergency and pledged on improvement of the water and its supply in this critical region.
A complicating factor is that a lot of the women in the community speak only Wichi and avoid reaching to other health centers and hospitals that don’t have interpreters.
The Urgent Need of Clean Water
In a hospital located on the border of Argentina with Brazil and Paraguay, a 5-year-old girl died in the arms of the health minister Josefina Medrano.
She described her death as a desperate situation and mentioned how’s she’s a pediatrician who’s trained of taking care and making sure children are healthy.
So, she promised to work and better the lives of those in the Wichi province; however, she’s aware that it will require time.
A Community Struggling with Basic Human Needs
Indigenous Argentineans are less than 3 percent of the population in the country, with most of them living in Sarta.
Around 200 miles north of Salta is Mision Chaquena, the largest Wichi community with around 8,000 inhabitants.
For Rodolfo Franco, a doctor from Buenos Aires who runs the only health center there, the situation is terrible- people are dying from hunger and thirst, dehydration and malnutrition, lack of work, and lack of future.
Even though his hospital provides little comfort, it doesn’t have the basic things a hospital has to have- the bed for maternity patients was broken several years ago and the midwife there hopes to get it replaced; however, there are other priorities.
The hospital is missing sheets, an ambulance, heaters, fans, etc.
Even though the more fortunate families in the poor community do have electricity, simpler homes have no water and diarrhea, vomiting, and dengue fever are a common issue.