WHO concerned about COVID-19 impact on indigenous people in the Americas


WHO concerned about COVID-19 impact on indigenous people in the Americas

Monday, July 20, 2020

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GENEVA, Switzerland (UNNews) — With the Americas still the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on the region's indigenous people is of deep concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

More than 70,000 cases and over 2,000 deaths were reported among this population as of July 6, according to the UN agency.

There have been at least six cases among the Nahua people, who live in the Peruvian Amazon, latest information has revealed.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained that because indigenous people are among the world's poorest and most vulnerable groups, they are especially at risk of contracting the disease.

“Like other vulnerable groups, indigenous peoples face many challenges.  This includes a lack of political representation, economic marginalisation and lack of access to health, education and social services”, he said, speaking from Geneva during the regular crisis update.

“Indigenous peoples often have a high burden of poverty, unemployment, malnutrition and both communicable and non-communicable diseases, making them more vulnerable to COVID-19 and its severe outcomes.”

WHO's Regional Office for the Americas recently published recommendations for preventing and responding to COVID-19 among indigenous peoples.

The agency also is working with the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin, to step up the fight against the disease.

WHO also used Monday's briefing to underline the importance of contact tracing to suppress COVID-19 transmission among indigenous communities and the population at large.

The process is essential, it said, as more countries begin to re-open after lifting lockdown measures.

“One of the lessons from the recent Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was declared over the last month, is that contact tracing can be done even in the most difficult circumstances, with security problems”, Tedros told journalists.

Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response, said contact tracing helps break further transmission of COVID-19, thus reducing its caseload and impact.

“What we need to understand is that contact tracing is not an isolated practice. It is part of the best practices for epidemiology,” he said, speaking in French.

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