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Washington, D.C., 9 August 2012 (PAHO/WHO) - The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) today commemorated the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, calling for intensified efforts to protect the health and defend the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.


These communities continue to face conditions of inequality and inequity despite progress in political and social representation and contributions from governments and agencies in the United Nations and Inter-American systems aimed at supporting the human rights and right to health of indigenous populations. Persistent poverty and barriers to access to basic services and equal opportunity impede sustainable development and economic and social progress.

PAHO/WHO underscores the need to address the health problems of indigenous populations from a multisectoral approach and with the express participation of indigenous representatives so as to create synergies and mitigate the social determinants that maintain inequities in health and access to services.

This year’s theme, “Indigenous media, empowering indigenous voices” provides an opportunity to extend the PAHO/WHO initiative Faces, Voices and Places, which promotes active community participation, empowerment, and advocacy for the right to health of the indigenous populations. The goal of this initiative is to promote achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals among the most vulnerable populations of Latin America and the Caribbean. PAHO/WHO calls on countries in the Region to work together to replicate successful experiences.

In some countries, there has been less reduction of extreme poverty among indigenous and Afro-descendent populations than among the rest of the population, according to PAHO/WHO’s Health of Women and Men in the Americas. Indicators relating to access to reproductive health, which helps to reduce maternal mortality, are worse for certain groups of women, including indigenous women.

However, statistics on the state of health of indigenous populations are very limited, which hinders analysis that could bring health inequities to the fore and limits the possibility of delineating proper responses. These life and health conditions of the indigenous peoples represent a challenge to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Since 1992 PAHO/WHO has advocated for the right to health, prior and informed consent, self-determination, and other collective and individual rights. PAHO/WHO works for an intercultural approach to health within the framework of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention (ILO-convention 169). During this time, three resolutions were approved in which member countries expressed their commitment to work for the health of indigenous populations. These international legal instruments and technical guidelines recommend that cross-sectoral solutions to health problems be sought with the participation of indigenous populations, so that measures adopted will be feasible, sustainable, culturally relevant, and result in improved living conditions throughout the Region.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was established by the United Nations General Assembly on 23 December 1994. The purpose of this year’s theme is to highlight the role of indigenous media in preserving indigenous peoples’ cultures, challenging stereotypes, and influencing the social and political agenda.

PAHO, which celebrates its 110th anniversary this year, is the oldest public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 August 2012 07:08

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