Amazon tribes hear of COVID-19 as vaccines arrive

Apu Mariano Quisto heads a remote village in Peru.

He says he was unaware of the COVID-19 pandemic until Red Cross workers came to vaccinate members of his community.

"We did not know that COVID-19 exists, that it is a virus. It is the first time that we have heard about a virus called COVID-19. Thank you for this information."

Quisto is a member of the Urarina indigenous group.

With a population of just 5,800, they live in isolated villages without electricity in the dense Peruvian Amazon rainforest.

It's a challenge for government health workers and the Red Cross to reach them.

They have to take a three-day boat ride from the city of Iquitos, which is the largest city in the world that can only be reached by boat or plane.

Officials brought 800 COVID-19 shots with them.

While many residents said what they needed were other types of healthcare.

"We have people who are sick with headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea and malaria, because malaria exists here in the community and there are no medicines to treat the patients."

Not all communities have been spared from the knowledge - or impact - of the pandemic.

Locals report at least five people have died of COVID-19.

Quisto says less than 20% of Peru's indigenous population has been fully vaccinated, compared to the 50% vaccination rate in the rest of the country.

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