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PAHO urges to prioritize indigenous communities in pandemic responses

PAHO urges to prioritize indigenous communities in pandemic responses

Washington, Aug 5 (Prensa Latina) Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne reported that as many as 617,000 indigenous people have been infected with Covid-19 in the Americas and urged nations to protect the hard-hit communities.

‘It’s likely that many more have been infected, but we may not know it because they have struggled to get the COVID care they deserve,’ she said during her weekly media briefing. She added that ‘nearly 15,000 (indigenous people) have died from Covid-19 complications since the start of the pandemic.’ The statistics are based on data from several countries.

Dr. Etienne noted that the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in the Americas, adding that most indigenous peoples lack the financial and social safety nets to ensure they can continue to provide for their families and communities, even when they are sick.

Many of our indigenous peoples live in remote and isolated areas where a clinic or a doctor may be many kilometers or days away. Even those who live in urban centers still face invisible barriers – like language, stigma, and poverty – that can keep health care out of reach,’ she said.

Countries should engage indigenous groups in the COVID-19 response and ensure that health workers are sensitive to the needs and languages of indigenous communities, and ‘respect the tradition of ancestral medicine still practiced by many of our indigenous peoples,’ Dr. Etienne urged.

‘So far, more than 134,000 indigenous people have been fully vaccinated across Guatemala and more than 312,000 have completed their COVID-19 vaccinations in Brazil. But we don’t have data from every country,’ Dr. Etienne said. pgh/ Pll/msm / rbp

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