Indigenous people face a unique risk that is not fully understood, a W.H.O. official said.
Countries in the Americas must do more to help indigenous communities prevent and treat Covid-19 infections – and that starts with collecting much more comprehensive and reliable data, a senior World Organization official said on Wednesday. health.
“Although every group is unique, no matter where you look, our indigenous communities are more vulnerable to Covid infections,” said Dr Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of the WHO .
Nearly half of the more than 62 million Indigenous people in the Americas live and work in urban centers and return home to visit their communities, a pattern that increases the risk of viral transmission. Many are also from communal companies, which makes social distancing a challenge.
“These frequent movements and gatherings create opportunities for the spread of Covid,” said Dr Etienne. And even in urban centers, Indigenous people face “invisible barriers” to care, including language and poverty, she said.
Yet reliable data on the impact of Covid on indigenous peoples is itself scarce. Most countries in the region do not collect figures on the effects of Covid on indigenous peoples. Based on the limited information provided to the WHO by a few countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, at least 617,000 indigenous people have been infected with Covid-19 in the Americas and nearly 15,000 are deceased.
“It is likely that many more have been infected and many more have died, but we may not know that because they struggled to get the Covid care they deserve,” said the Dr Etienne. “For many of our indigenous peoples, the right to health remains an unfulfilled promise. “
Dr Etienne urged countries to collect “more and better data” which she said was “essential to guide effective policies” and would help public health efforts to “understand and address the challenges facing our indigenous groups. “.
“Too few countries are collecting data on the impact of the pandemic on ethnic groups,” she added, “leaving health ministries blind to important and valuable trends on how the virus is affecting our communities indigenous “.
The call for increased attention to indigenous peoples comes as more than 1.2 million cases of Covid-19 and 20,000 deaths have been reported in the Americas over the past week.
Covid infections are on the rise in North America, mainly due to an increase in cases in the southern and eastern United States as well as central Mexico. Infections are also on the rise in Guatemala, especially among people under the age of 50.
Among the Caribbean nations, Cuba, Martinique and the British Virgin Islands are seeing particularly strong increases.
Vaccines “remain out of the reach of too many people,” said Dr Etienne, noting that only 18% of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
There has been good news in much of South America, where the number of cases is largely on the decline, although some Brazilian states have seen an increase in infections. Twenty-two countries in the Americas detected the Delta variant this week, although so far it has been widely associated with travelers.
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