Indigenous peoples in many regions have a long history of devastation from epidemics brought by colonizers, from the arrival of the first Europeans in the Americas who brought smallpox: communications culture Report, UM, Australia

University The University of Melbourne (UM)
Subject communications culture

The Impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples in many regions have a long history of devastation from epidemics brought by colonizers, from the arrival of the first Europeans in the Americas who brought smallpox and influenza to a measles outbreak among the Yanomami of Brazil and Southern Venezuela in the 1950s/60s nearly decimated the tribe (Pringle, 2015).

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN VOLUNTARY ISOLATION

The COVID-19 virus poses a particular threat to indigenous peoples living remotely or in voluntary isolation, who lack immunity to many infectious diseases. In the Amazon region alone, it is estimated that there could be up to 78 indigenous tribes living in isolation. Most recently, the death of a 15-year-old boy due to COVID-19 was reported among the Yanomami. It is feared that further encroachment on indigenous lands, for instance, illegal loggers and miners will result in significant deaths due to the easily compromised immune systems of indigenous peoples.

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INITIAL RESPONSES BY MEMBER STATES AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES

Initial responses from both Member States and indigenous peoples and their organizations have mainly focused on prevention, with a number of Member States allocating targeted funding. COVID-19-related guidelines were issued in indigenous languages by the Governments of Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. In Australia, the government established a National Indigenous Taskforce to develop an emergency response plan for Aboriginal communities to combat the potential spread of COVID19. The Governments of Canada and the US earmarked specific medical support and economic stimulus funding
for indigenous communities, Indigenous organizations around the world have also been quick to respond, including by providing key messages through written, social media, and radio broadcasts in indigenous languages. The Mayan Language Academy (AMG) has translated different prevention messages to deal with COVID-19 in several indigenous languages, with
more to be issued.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out a framework for policy action on COVID-19 based on the rights of indigenous peoples to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental May 2020 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 3
health, and their right to access, without any discrimination, all social and health services. This falls within the larger framework of the Decade for Action and Delivery for sustainable development and the Secretary-General’s recently issued “UN Framework for the Immediate Socio-Economic Response to COVID-19,” which emphasizes that the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs should be the building blocks for recovery

Policy recommendations and guidelines include the following:

Governments and Representative Institutions

1. Recognize indigenous peoples’ representative institutions, authorities, and governments as the legitimate representatives of indigenous peoples.
2. Include indigenous peoples’ representatives, leaders, and traditional authorities in the planning and design of health services and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in dealing with its repercussions.
3. Provide effective support to indigenous communities that have imposed lockdowns or other restrictions to stop the spread of the COVID-19.
4. Prepare public service announcements messages, such as hygiene, physical distance, quarantine and prevention, in cooperation with indigenous peoples, in indigenous languages.
5. Improve the access and management of clean water and sanitation, particularly for indigenous peoples living in remote communities, to avoid the further spread of the virus, taking into account relevant indigenous practices such as watershed management.
6. Ensure availability of disaggregated data of indigenous people, including on rates of infection, mortality, economic impacts, care burden, and incidence of violence, including gender-based violence.

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