As world leaders continue to debate how to help Brazil, if their president will let them, the immediate, life-threatening effects of the fires in the Amazon rainforest are already taking their toll.
Smoke from the fires has shrouded the Amazon basin in a thick, gray smog, while much of South America has been victim to smoke making its way across the land, through cities, farmland, and even into buildings.
Though residents are used to forest fires – they are an annual occurrence for some areas – this year the fires are particularly bad. So much so, the number of people being admitted to hospital with pneumonia, severe coughing and other respiratory illnesses is rapidly rising, tripling within the space of a month.
Laine Polinaria de Oliveira, a fruit seller in Porto Velho, told National Geographic how, though ‘business is normal’, ‘everyone is talking about the fires’.
We are used to fires during this time of year, but this year is so much worse than before.
As a result, Laine is particularly worried about her nine-year-old son, and the effects inhaling such dirty, smoke-riddled air will have on him.
According to Daniel Pires, a pediatrician at the Cosme e Damia children’s hospital in Porto Velho, the number of cases of respiratory health issues among children has risen from around 120-130 in early August to 280 by the end of the month.
This period has been very tough. The dry weather and the smoke causes many problems for children, such as pneumonia, coughing and secretion.
Elane Diaz, a nurse in the Rondonia state capital of Porto Velho, who has a five-year-old son, told AP News:
The kids are affected the most. They’re coughing a lot. They have problems breathing. I’m concerned because it affects their health.
The forest fires aren’t unusual, both naturally-occurring ones and those set by farmers to clear land for agriculture, it seems this year the environmental issue has reached breaking point.
This is something that people have been doing for many years. But now we can really feel the repercussions of this practice and people are changing their opinions on this.
Though Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, initially rejected more than $22 million (£18 million) from the G7 summit to help control the fires, the country’s far-right leader has now said he is willing to accept ‘bilateral’ offers of aid.
However, he has also suggested the offers of international aid are attempts to exploit the Amazon’s resources and weaken Brazil’s economic growth, AP News reports.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.