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As Brazilians struggle to breathe through Amazon’s smoke, Bolsonaro rejects foreign aid

The Amazon's raging fires are leaving some Brazilian children unable to breathe. Heavy levels of smoke in the air are harmful to anyone but especially dangerous for babies and those with underlying respiratory issues like asthma. Despite the health risks, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rejected $22 million in foreign aid to fight the fires. Emma Murphy of Independent Television News reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As thousands of fires rage through the Amazon, Brazil's president has reignited a diplomatic war of words that could threaten millions in aid to fight the blazes.

    Emma Murphy of Independent Television News reports on the political dispute unfolding and the fire in the world's largest rainforest.

  • Emma Murphy:

    They are the children of the Amazon and now young victims of its fires.

    Far from the flames, it is the smoke which is doing the harm, hundreds being treated for its effects. Baby Nicolas is a month-and-a-half old. His mother became so worried about his cough, she decided to risk further smoke inhalation to get him to hospital.

    "At night, he can't breathe at all," she tells me. "He coughs and struggles because of what's happening. I'm so frightened."

    Her fears are shared by Regiane Martins. Her daughter Sophia is asthmatic and always struggles when there are fires in the region, but this year her symptoms are so much worse.

    "I'm not just worried for Sophia," she tells me. "I'm a teacher. And I worry for my pupils. There has been a real increase in the number of children who are sick. We can't just stay inside, but outside makes them ill."

    With air so smoke-logged, you can smell and taste the pollution, hospitals across the region are busy.

  • Daniel Pires:

    They feel hurt in the throat, difficulty of breathing, you know, coughing. And these are the most common symptoms they feel.

  • Emma Murphy:

    And this is simply because of the amount of smoke in the atmosphere.

  • Daniel Pires:

    Yes, it is two things, the weather that is dry and the smoke.

  • Emma Murphy:

    Yet, as the fires burn, the power play of international politics risks distracting from the crisis itself, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rejecting millions from the G7 nations amidst accusations of colonialism.

    Macron offers aid from rich countries to the Amazon. He says: "Why? Do they have an eye on the Amazon? What have they wanted there for so long?"

    That accusation was rejected by the French leader, who insisted world protection, rather than world control, was at the heart of the offer.

    President Bolsonaro sees the Amazon as Brazil's possession, to be protected or exploited as he sees fit. However, these fires are a global crisis and now, at such a scale, he may not be able to control them alone.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That was Emma Murphy of Independent Television News.

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