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Children in Brazil are having trouble breathing because of the Amazon fires

Indigenous Amazon tribes threatened by fires

Smoke from the Amazon rainforest fires is being blamed for an increase in respiratory problems in Brazil — health problems that are particularly affecting children and the elderly.

The number of patients being treated for respiratory issues at Cosme e Damia Children's hospital has sharply increased as the fires continue to rage, the Associated Press reports.

Elane Diaz, a nurse from Porto Velho, said her kids have been coughing a lot. "They have problems breathing. I'm concerned because it affects their health," Diaz told the AP as she was bringing her 5-year-old son, Eduardo, to a doctor's appointment.

The dry weather and lingering smoke is causing several complications like pneumonia, coughing and secretion, pediatrician Daniel Pires told a local newspaper. Pires, who works for Cosme e Damia Children's hospital, said the number of cases has more than doubled since earlier this month.

In addition to the health of the people, the health of the country's ecosystem is also deteriorating due to the fires. CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez reported about 15% of the Earth's fresh water is in the Amazon, which contains so much moisture scientists say it actually helps cool the entire planet.

With the fires burning a lot of that away, there's fear it could eventually cause irreversible damage to the world's climate. The indigenous people who live in the Amazon also fear what the fires and deforestation could mean for their way of life.

Chief Tashka Yawanawa of the Yawanawa people told CBS News this dry season has been particularly bad. "Each one of us needs to be responsible economically, environmentally, culturally because otherwise the humanity is just gonna disappear like dinosaurs," he said.

Brazil Amazon Fires
Members of the Kayapo indigenous group attend a meeting to discuss community issues in in Brazil's Amazon, Aug. 27, 2019. The fire is very close to Kayapo indigenous land located on the Bau indigenous reserve. Leo Correa / AP

The fires are largely blamed on humans — particularly farmers and ranchers, emboldened by the Brazilian government to set flames to the rainforest to clear the way for pastures.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, a climate-change skeptic, has faced criticism over policies and his delayed response to the fires. 

G-7 countries made an offer of $20 million in aid to fight the fires at their recent summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, who insisted the issue should be discussed as a top priority.

While Bolsonaro initially demanded an apology for criticism of his handling of the fires, he later shifted and said he is open to accepting international aid for firefighting efforts.

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