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Argentina’s Indigenous forest people suffer neglect

The Toba are one of the few remaining indigenous groups in Argentina. They live in The Impenetrable Forest, the poorest area in the poorest province of the country. The early Spanish settlers wrote about the Tobas saying they were a fierce people, hardened by an inhospitable terrain.They killed those who dared stray into what became known as the Bosque Impenetrable, the Impenetrable Forest.

Two Toba children

The Toba are a tiny minority in Argentina, with only 18,000 people

But there is little sign of that fierceness today in a community ravaged by years of neglect and exploitation. At the state-run hospital in the town of Castelli at the entrance to the forest, tired, wizened Tobas sit on dirty sheets in fly-infested wards, staring blankly at nothing, waiting to die.

These are the original Argentines, their straight, dark hair and brown skin in marked contrast to the descendants of European immigrants who live in the cities.

Poverty and Malnutrition

Many look much older than they are, and are suffering from tuberculosis or the effects of Chagas disease, caused by a parasitic insect.These are illnesses with their roots in poverty and all the patients are much thinner than they should be, many too emaciated to be operated on.

The families who brought them here, often from long distances, sit with them since they have nowhere else to go and have little or no money for food.

An elderly women in hospital

Many Toba are suffering from TB, Chagos disease, or malnutrition

In recent months, it has been reported that some Toba have died from malnutrition, something those in the capital, Buenos Aires find hard to accept in a country where the economy is growing at the rate of 8% a year.

Rolando Nunez runs the Nelson Mandela Centre which distributes food to the remote communities deep in the forest.

The forest, with its rutted dirt roads and thick vegetation is, in parts, still pretty impenetrable. Until recently, few had much desire to go there.

Mr Nunez accuses the local and national authorities of blatant neglect and says they manipulate the official figures to make the situation appear better than it is. He accuses the authorities of what he calls a gradual genocide.

The director of the hospital, Raul Romero, talked of doing the best he could with limited resources.

A Toba hut

Many Toba still live in primitive mud and stick huts

In the provincial capital, Resistencia, health minister Dr Ricardo Mayol, said the Toba often spurned their offers of help, checking out of the hospitals without being treated.

The authorities provided emergency food where it was needed, he said, and many of those who reportedly died of hunger had in fact been suffering from other diseases.

Read Whole Story Source: BBC

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