Shuar community in Morona Santiago Province, Ecuadorian Amazon
Comunidad Shuar en la Provincia de Morona Santiago, Amazonía ecuatoriana

It is estimated that 70% of the Shuar indigenous people in Ecuador have not been immunized against Covid-19, because they do not trust the medicine provided by the State.

By: Jhulaydy Sayonara Cabrera, Ecuador.
Noticias Ecuador.

The Shuar are indigenous people who live in the southeastern part of Amazon in Ecuador. Moreover, they have not been immunized against Covid-19 instead of that they have resorted to their natural medicine. They use their ancestral knowledge as a protective and healing weapon.

In the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle various ethnic groups and reservations lost some of their members at the beginning of the pandemic. However, they continued preferring a natural alternative.

They have better beliefs in the earth’s resources, than in what laboratory medicines can give them.

In the province of Morona Santiago located in the southeast of Ecuador, The Shuar keep recurring to their ancestral wisdom to face «the mysterious evil».

Moreover, they believe that if they had agreed to mass vaccination it could have been a real catastrophe for them.

They faced Covid-19 with tuber and foliage concoction.

The Shuar have resorted to mixing their plants and tubers and use them as their natural medicine.


A visit to the jungle

Going into the southeast Ecuador  jungles, allows us to encounter various striking and also mysterious scenarios.

The Covid-19 pandemic took us with TuBarco Latino once again to those places. To understand why they do not accept doctors and Ministry of Health personnel assistance.

Although this is the institution in charge of the vaccination campaign for combating the coronavirus in the country, the Shuar refuse to apply those procedures in their territories.

Nunkui Panki, Shuar community

With this objective we arrived at Nunkui Panki, where we found Elías Akachu. Elías is the chief of a 35-person family. Including children, adolescents, and adults, who have not been vaccinated.

Although the worldwide fatalities due to contagion during the entire pandemic amounts to 7 million people, this indigenous community prefers to protect themselves.

According to official data, there are 35,885 deaths in Ecuador, out of a total of one million cases. Moreover, 60 people have died in the province of Morona Santiago. However, it is suspected that there are many more.

Shuar Community in the Province of Morona Santiago, Ecuadorian Amazon

Elías was encouraged to explain «directly and first-hand», how they use the products and natural elements of their land to combat covid-19.

«Most of the Shuar community have used these plants and we have been cured with them. My family and I have not gotten the vaccine. Only people who live in the city did» he explained.

If they recognize that members of their community are outside the territory, by regulations, they agree to apply Covid-19 vaccines.

«Let’s talk about the Shuar who are suddenly working in the city as employees. They have used the pharmacy, but they always come looking for natural medicines,» he said.

Elías Akachu – Chamán Shuar

Like Elías, the explanation of Patricia Yahanua (a family mother) is similar. Her opinion is clear. She does not trust the vaccine, whatever brand it is.

Those who refuse… 

«There are people who have been vaccinated and I saw that they have serious repercussions on health. They were left with low defenses, somehow weak.» He said.

“No, we do not, what about me and my children, no”. He answered about whether or not he will get the vaccines.

Panía community and its self-protection strategy

Patricia’s explanation and her reasons coincide with what Mercy Patty points out, she is a Panía resident, which is about 70 km south of Macas. Administrative center of the province of Morona Santiago, bordering Perú.

In that place, the pandemic snatched the first two lives of the Shuar people when evil first appeared in Ecuador.

After stating that it all started with a proliferation of body aches (which seemed like a flu)  and when the first death occurred (a 70-year-old person), they withdrew.

His strategy was to leave the town and move away to the farms in the middle of the jungle to isolate himself.

That first fatality was his grandfather, and still «we will not be vaccinated.»

«People no longer want to be vaccinated, at least those in our culture no longer want to get injections because they have heard so many comments. Doctors come to explain them but when they don’t want to, they can’t be forced either,» he said.

Furthermore, the Ecuadorian government insists on bringing doctors and vaccinators to this population because some of them agree to take the doses.

For the Shuar men, their support has been the women

In this mission the pertinent thing was to dialogue with the women. Since they were more linked to what was happening in their homes. Therefore, their voice is important to know how husbands, heads of families, were life supporters trying to find the cure in the jungle.

They focused on looking for the plants that helped them to neutralize the problem in the face of this fatal disease.

Jorge Etsa says that for them, their medicinal plants are enough. 

Miguel Tunki, trustee of the Shuar community of Panía, said «the vaccinations have been forced». In some cases to be able to work in companies or institutions, while in others to receive financial support provided by the government.


Tunki comments that, although it was in his community where the first two deaths from Covid-19 occurred, traditional medicine has cured them. Which is why now they do not go to public/private health centers.

The painful goodbye to grandmother Consuelo

This member of the Shuar Community said that his grandmother Consuelo Kassent got sick and they were told it was SARS CoV-2. That is why they transferred her to the General Hospital in the city of Macas. However, after she was hospitalized they never went again. 

«They took her in such a critical situation to the Macas regional. There they heard of her death and we could not locate her body. Nor receive her in the town,» she explained.

They had to live the duel like millions of people, with the image of the last time they saw their loved ones, entering an ICU.

«Until today we have not heard of the body of Consuelo Kassent,» he lamented.

Life is now apparently normal in the community of Panía. Although its residents are aware that Covid-19 is still present.

Just like Panía and Nunkui Panki, the Shuar in Tiwintza do not trust the vaccine provided by the government either.

Many of the missions of Ecuadorian doctors who arrive in these places are unsuccessful.

It is a town of more than 200 people and these days they barely manage to vaccinate a maximum of 12.

Amazon communities are resisting outside «practices.»


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