La Ceiba, 18 August 2011 (PAHO/WHO Honduras) - Communities of African descent in the Americas are still in a critical situation when it comes to health, stated Dr. Socorro Gross Galiano, Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) on 18 August at the First World Summit for People of African Descent, held in La Ceiba, Honduras.
Dr. Gross participated in a forum sponsored by PAHO/WHO on rights and health coordinated by the Organization's Representative in Honduras, Dr. Gina Watson. This activity was part of the First World Summit for People of African Descent, which will evaluate the living conditions of the over 150 million people of African descent living in Latin America and the Caribbean and analyze the successes achieved since the III World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance 10 years ago. The meeting, which is part of the celebrations of the International Year for People of African Descent, has been convened by Honduras' Organization for Ethnic Community Development (ODECO).
"PAHO is taking advantage of the opportunity and joining the commitment to redouble efforts and muster the political will to combat the racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance that jeopardize the health and well-being of so many people in our Region of the Americas," declared Dr. Gross, adding, "We recognize that exclusion in health is closely linked to poverty, marginality, and racial, social, and gender discrimination."
During her presentation, Dr. Gross said that "unfortunately, history has relegated too many minority communities of people of African descent to poverty and exclusion." She explained that health statistics, which are still limited, show that from birth, babies of African descent have a greater probability of dying than those of other races and that their mothers are also at greater risk when giving birth. Dr. Gross added that, as they grow older, children and adults of African descent experience more health problems.
"Men have higher homicide and HIV infection rates. Pregnancy in adolescents is more prevalent, and equal access to health services and contraceptives is still a challenge," she underscored, noting that the situation of people of African descent tends to be invisible, because information disaggregated by ethnicity and race and an intercultural analysis that identifies gaps, inequities, and injustices are lacking.
"Given the prevailing injustice, PAHO joins in solidarity with the men and women leaders of African descent, sister agencies, governments. academic institutions, and civil society organizations represented at this Summit," she declared.
During her presentation, Dr. Gross pointed to and applauded the commitment of ODECO and numerous civil society organizations, movements spearheaded by people of African descent, academia, and the Government of Honduras, among others, to organizing the Summit. She also noted PAHO's participation in the preparations for the Durban Review Conference, as well as the Durban +5 agenda, and the Organization's backing for civil society in revisiting the Durban agenda at the Regional Conference of the Americas in 2006.
"Let us join together in celebrating the International Year for People of African Descent to continue the International Decade for People of African Descent and prepare to celebrate life without discrimination or exclusion, with equal opportunities for achieving the highest attainable standard of health for all in the Americas," concluded Dr. Gross.
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