Children in Brumadinho

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By MARINA PAULA OLIVEIRA*

An entire generation is marked for life by the consequences of predatory mining, which continues to put profit above life.

One year and six months have passed since the criminal breach of the dam belonging to the mining company VALE SA in Brumadinho-MG.

How can we not talk about the traumas of the affected children? There are more than 100 orphans of father or mother or both. They are children and nephews of farmers who used to play with the sprinkler that irrigated the plantations that today are under the mud.

These are children who used to play ball, barefoot, on the street and who today can no longer do so due to the flow of trucks, involved in damage containment works, carrying toxic waste on their wheels and taking the mud to environments, previously considered safe.

They are traumatized children who have had to run with all their haste from the mud. Children who are afraid to stay in their homes, but who are also afraid to leave them.

“Auntie, is there a dam here?” “Does Bahia have a dam? My grandmother lives there”, “Auntie, when the mud gets here, it will destroy everything, won't it?”.

These are some of the questions that are heard around here. The words die in my throat because I have no way to respond.

Still not to mention children, daughters and sons of leaders who had their lives completely impacted, through endless meetings that their parents had to attend and, finally, give their adhesion to tread the long and endless journey in the fight for justice, dignity, memory victims and full compensation for losses and damages. There isn't much time left for children to play when the father and mother are always busy, trying to rescue rights that were violently kidnapped from them.

I can never forget it and tears always come to my eyes when I remember the celebration, in January, on the occasion of the one-year memory of the criminal disaster, with the presence of relatives of the disappeared and their young sons and daughters, launching 272 balloons in the air in memory of the 272 disappeared, with the inscription: “it hurts so much the way you left”. Someone needs to be very callous and inhuman not to hold back tears and also show outrage.

Several young people at the age of 14 have attempted suicide. 10-year-olds take anti-depressant medication. And they are just children. How many children can no longer play in the streets of their homes because their small communities have been occupied by hundreds of strange people, workers, volunteers, among others. The environment that used to be familiar, today is characterized by a feeling of insecurity and strangeness, without understanding anything.

There are indigenous children who used to play freely in the Paraopeba river and who today are not allowed to enter its waters or even touch them due to the high degree of contamination of heavy metals still unknown by the communities.

“Auntie, has the river healed yet?”, “Can you swim today?”.

Many mothers complain of their children's growing illnesses and respiratory problems as a result of the increase in toxic dust in their communities.

Children who feel guilty about playing because they say to each other: “the whole city is sad, isn’t it, Auntie?”.

It is unimaginable the suffering of mothers when their daughters ask: “on what day will daddy come back”? Who can answer them? Grandmothers fear having to explain to their grandchildren that their father or mother is among the “disappeared”.

Many children even today draw helicopters flying over their neighborhoods carrying bodies or parts of them. One of these days, a child commented: “my father, poor thing, died in the mud”. What does this mean for this child's head? Is there any explanation for this?

Do children forget? Around here, the most obvious path seems to be to create bubbles for these children, bubbles as if their childhood had not been uprooted by vile economic interests. Perhaps they will never understand this evil.

Child suffering, in turn, seems to be wide open: “Firefighter, thank you for finding my father's body; he will never come back.”

An entire generation is marked for life by the consequences of predatory mining, which continues to put profit above life.

Who proposes to speak to these stricken children whose souls have been shattered by this cruel mining that sacrifices lives on the altar of greed for profit?

Then I remembered a phrase by Dostoyevsky that I once heard: "all advances in science are not worth a child's cry."

I feel helpless but deeply in solidarity with them. That's why I hug and kiss them so that they feel welcomed. And realize that the most precious gift that exists has been spared, life them, that he should go on and be happy.

* Marina Paula Oliveira, one of those affected by the dam failure, is Project Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte.

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