“ Indigenous peoples live in both urban and rural locals and account today for over 476 million individuals spread across 90 countries in the world, accounting for 6.2% of the global population.
Nonetheless, our communities are nearly 3 times as likely to be living in extreme poverty, and thus more prone to infectious diseases.
Many indigenous communities are already suffering from malnutrition and immune-suppressive conditions, which can increase susceptibility to infectious diseases.
The extent of the devastating nature and potential of COVID-19 is uncertain.
Member States must protect the most vulnerable in our global society.
I urge you to take immediate steps to ensure that indigenous peoples are informed, protected and prioritized during the COVID-19 global health pandemic.”
MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR OF THE PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES.
Read Download full press release HERE.
” The global reach of the COVID-19 virus affects us all, but some groups will suffer disproportionately and in different ways. Indigenous peoples are such a group.
Many indigenous peoples live in remote regions difficult to access and often inaccessible.
Even prior to this crisis, they experienced higher rates of health risks, poorer health and greater unmet needs in respect of health care than their non-indigenous counterparts. Indigenous peoples were already disadvantaged in terms of access to quality health care and were more vulnerable to numerous health problems, in particular pandemics.
The social determinants of health, such as safe drinking water and a sufficient, balanced diet, and sanitation were not fulfilled before this crisis.
Moreover, the expropriation of indigenous lands and natural resources and the increase in conflicts on their territories were already placing indigenous peoples in a particularly precarious situation ”
Read more see part 2 below
The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic could have serious effects on indigenous peoples’ wellbeing, livelihoods and health.
FAO urges governments, academia, NGOs, international community and indigenous peoples authorities to take specific measures that ensure the respect to indigenous peoples’ rights during the pandemic and that includes an intercultural approach when dealing with the emergency, safety and health aspects of the response.
Based on the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights and on WHO messages, The FAO Indigenous Peoples Unit makes the following recommendations:
- Under the right of Indigenous Peoples to self-determination, FAO encourages Governments to include indigenous peoples’ representatives, leaders and traditional authorities in emergency and health response committees or any entity dedicated to the COVID 19 pandemic, both during the outbreak as well as in the aftermath.
- FAO urges the global, regional and national health instances to provide contention information and audiovisual materials to indigenous peoples and to support their translation and dissemination in indigenous languages.
- Local indigenous communities often do not have full command of mainstream languages. To avoid communication breakdowns that will spread the disease, all main hygiene, quarantine and contention messages should be shared with the traditional leaders and youth leaders and translated into local indigenous languages.
- Involve indigenous youth in the dissemination of COVID-19 messages within the communities both in mainstream languages as well as in local indigenous languages, their command of social media makes them a fundamental player in this situation.
- FAO urges health entities to include in their response an intercultural approach that takes into consideration traditional indigenous health care takers, training them in all the relevant contention measures and use of equipment to stop the spreading of the virus.
- FAO requests Governments and health organizations to include indigenous peoples´ communities among the receivers of contention material such as masks, gloves, disinfectant and other contention materials.
- FAO urges Governments to include indigenous peoples in their countries as recipients of health assistance like any other citizen of the country, including them among the population share that is tested for possible positive COVID-19 cases.
- FAO calls to not implement any policy, programme or intervention that affects indigenous peoples without obtaining previously their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
- The right of Indigenous Peoples to be or remain in Voluntary Isolation must be respected
- Several Indigenous Peoples communities have self-imposed quarantine and have established controls to limit access to their communities. These mechanisms should be respected and reinforced whenever requested.
- FAO urges Governments to intensify protection measures to stop external farmers, settlers, private firms, industries and miners from entering indigenous peoples´ territories taking advantage of the present crisis.
- FAO has always been urging governments to stop any planned or ongoing evictions of indigenous peoples. Its call is renewed and heightened given the context of the health emergency for COVID-19.
FAO is in contact with indigenous organizations to provide assistance by sharing information about prevention and contention of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The FAO Indigenous Peoples Unit is ready to assist countries in their efforts to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on indigenous peoples and to support the implementation of measures that previously discussed and agreed with indigenous peoples.
Part 2 Continued
The spread of COVID -19 has and will continue to exacerbate an already critical situation for many indigenous peoples: a situation where inequalities and discrimination already abound.
The rise in national recessions and the real possibility of a world depression are set to aggravate the situation further, bringing fear that many indigenous peoples will die, not only from the virus itself but also from conflicts and violence, linked to the scarcity of resources, especially drinking water and food.
Yet there is still time to limit this health crisis and its disastrous effects. Urgent action has demonstrated that appropriate measures taken early on in the crisis can drastically reduce and control the transmission of this disease.
We call on all States to fulfil their human rights obligations, guided by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to protect the health and lives of indigenous peoples. In following WHO advice, we urge you to ensure that indigenous peoples become your partners in this endeavour, and that you provide culturally acceptable healthcare, as well as food or other humanitarian relief, when necessary, and without discrimination.
States should acknowledge and accommodate the cultural, spiritual, and religious rights and responsibilities of indigenous peoples when considering measures to respond to the virus. As with the adoption of any measures that may affect indigenous peoples, their free, prior and informed consent, grounded in the right to self-determination, should be sought.
Many indigenous peoples are invisible in our societies but they should not be forgotten, they may even warrant special attention. Indigenous peoples in refugee or internally displaced camps, detention centres or institutions, migrants in administrative settings, have a higher risk of contracting the disease. For older indigenous persons this virus may be fatal, and indigenous migrants and individuals in urban areas, are often already living in precarious environments.
Probably the most vulnerable of indigenous peoples are those living in voluntary isolation or initial contact given their particular vulnerability to disease. It is imperative that sanitary cordons preventing outsiders from entering their territories are strictly controlled to avoid any contact.
In order to limit the spread of Covid-19, several communities of indigenous peoples have taken the initiative to put in place containment measures and controls at the entrance to their territories. We welcome these initiatives and call on States to respect and support them.
All indigenous peoples will require timely and accurate information on all aspects of the pandemic, in their indigenous languages, and in culturally sensitive formats.
The requirement to remain in quarantine will also require measures taken by the State, in partnership with indigenous peoples, to control entry by non-indigenous peoples or non-essential health care workers onto indigenous land. Such measures should also mitigate against encroachment upon indigenous land by opportunists, or invaders such as illegal loggers and miners.
We also urge States to make a firm commitment to avoid: removal of indigenous peoples from their lands; diminishing indigenous lands; and using indigenous lands for military activity, especially for the duration of this pandemic. In short, territorial protection will be a vital component of States’ efforts to protect indigenous peoples from the spread of the disease and contribute to their recovery after this crisis.
We advise all States and UN agencies to take on board our advice herein, guided by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as guidance provided by the OHCHR
The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) is a subsidiary body of the Human Rights Council mandated to provide the Council with expertise and advice on the rights of indigenous peoples as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and assist Member States, upon request, in achieving the ends of the Declaration through the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the rights of indigenous peoples.
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