Washington, D.C., 15 July, 2020 (PAHO) – The Pan American Health Organization and the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA) have agreed to work together to step up the fight against COVID-19 in indigenous areas of the Amazon.
In a joint statement, COICA and PAHO ask countries to “strengthen health care services in the Amazon through the provision of human resources, supplies and medical devices, including tests, as well as through treatments and vaccines when they are available. The statement places emphasis on those populations living in voluntary isolation.
COICA includes indigenous organizations from the Peruvian jungle, eastern Bolivia, the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Colombian Amazon, and the Brazilian Amazon.
“The daily increase in cases and deaths due to COVID-19 has dealt a severe blow to indigenous peoples and nationalities of the Amazon, whose communities are in a critical situation,” highlights the statement signed by both organizations. The statement also warns that “the eventual entry of the virus into isolated territories will expose these populations to a serious risk of extinction.”
PAHO and COICA also warned that the high rates of diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases in these communities “increases the risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19.” Chronic child malnutrition, high maternal mortality rates, malaria and dengue in indigenous communities, also “adds to the emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Both organizations called on governments to coordinate with indigenous organizations in the Amazon to urgently implement response plans and protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic that are “appropriate to the various geographical and cultural contexts and that include the participation of the communities themselves.” This will reduce the impact of the disease on the lives of people and their communities.
PAHO and COICA also urge countries to coordinate the responses of indigenous organizations and the governments of Amazon countries to ensure “a joint response that is adapted to the social and cultural reality, and specific needs of these areas,” particularly border areas. They also highlight the need to strengthen a social protection network for the indigenous peoples and nationalities of the Amazon so that actions to prevent and reduce the speed of transmission will be effective. The Organizations also indicated that strengthening programs that address public health issues, including chronic child malnutrition, maternal mortality, malaria, dengue, tuberculosis, and HIV, among others, is vital.
Indigenous health is a priority for PAHO, which provides technical cooperation to these populations through a variety of projects. However, “the historical difficulty accessing health care for Amazonian populations, combined with the current health emergency, require a concerted, coordinated response between States, indigenous organizations, United Nations agencies and other international cooperation partners.”
COICA and PAHO are planning a regional forum with other agencies and international organizations working in the area “to give visibility to the reality of indigenous peoples and nationalities of the Amazon”. This forum will also facilitate coordinated actions in this Region.