Argentina's neglected Indian tribe

Al Jazeera's Teresa Bo reports on the ailing Toba tribe of Argentina.

    Human-rights groups blame government corruption for the Toba's plight

    Since July, 12 members of the Toba tribe have died from malnourishment and associated diseases.

    In a country in the midst of an economic boom, human-rights groups are blaming the government for neglecting Argentina's original inhabitants.

    Tomasa Juarez suffers from tuberculosis
    and can barely walk
    Tomasa Juarez can barely walk - the lack of food and tuberculosis are slowly killing her.

    She is part of a community that is quickly vanishing.

    Tomasa lives in El Chaco, Argentina's poorest province, in an area known as "the impenetrable" because of its remoteness.

    Her husband, Domingo Sosa, told Al Jazeera: "Sometimes we have food and sometimes we don't.

    "We survive with what we can. We have no one to turn to."

    Tomasa is a member of the Toba indigenous group and is not the only member of her community who is suffering.

    In the last 12 months, many members of the Toba tribe have died of malnourishment and immunity deficiency, which results in deadly diseases like tuberculosis.

    Tina, the village's witchdoctor, says she is worried because she cannot help her ailing community.

    In Video


    Watch Teresa Bo's report from El Chaco

    She said: "They are sick. There is not enough food and I try to help them but my medicines are not good enough. They eat flour and fat, and only when they can."

    Hunger afflicts these Argentines, in a country previously known as the world's granary.

    The country's indigenous communities used to depend on the forest to feed themselves.

    But massive deforestation and the sale of public land to private companies have forced them into areas where they can barely survive.

     Powerless

    At the community centre in Villa Bermejo, dozens of Indians gathered to seek help for those in need. They are powerless but hope the government to take action.

    There are around 600,000 native Indians in Argentina and most of them live in very poor conditions.
     
    One native Indian, Juan Sasa, showed us his living conditions had left his body emaciated.

    The Toba only hope the government
    will take action
    He said: "They give us medicines for the tuberculosis but they are no good without something in your stomach."

    Local authorities say they are doing everything they can to help indigenous communities.

    But Rolando Nunez, of the Nelson Mandela Human Rights Centre, believes something else. He blames corruption and inefficiency for the current situation.

    He said: "The Indian communities are a disposable population. Leaving them to die like this is a slow extermination.

    "This cannot be fixed with some bags of food. There needs to be a national plan to feed them, educate them, but the truth is, nobody cares."

    Six years after Argentina's worst economic crises, the country's economy is booming.

    But people like Tomasa do not get to see the benefits. They just have to hope that things will change soon.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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