Washington, D.C., July 28, 2020 (PAHO) —The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) considers that a specific diagnosis of health gaps and ways to facilitate access to prevention and health services for populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are needed, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, PAHO's Assistant Director, said yesterday in a meeting with indigenous leaders from Amazonian peoples and experts from various international agencies.
Dr. Barbosa said that PAHO can promote collaboration between ministries of health, indigenous organizations, and other organizations that are responding to the pandemic, to develop roadmaps for the response. He said reliable data on COVID-19 cases and other diseases affecting those populations are needed, along with ensuring the implementation of public health measures. The PAHO Assistant Director highlighted the need to consider the implications of traditional medicine in the context of the pandemic.
In a virtual dialogue with leaders of indigenous organizations from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, as well as other national and international organizations, PAHO experts addressed the issues of access to health and vulnerable populations in the context of the current pandemic. The indigenous organizations expressed the need to be heard by national authorities in each of the countries.
The purpose of the meeting was to give visibility to the situation of Amazonian indigenous peoples in the context of COVID-19 and to present the actions carried out in the Amazon subregion by PAHO, in collaboration with the countries and indigenous organizations from the area. Another objective of the meeting was to form a coalition to provide the necessary support in the response to COVID-19 among the populations of the Amazon.
Gregorio Mirabal, General Coordinator of the Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) group, emphasized the importance of ensuring the participation of indigenous peoples in the work of governments to respond to the pandemic.
In the Amazon, the daily increase in cases and deaths from COVID-19 has been a severe blow to indigenous peoples and nationalities, experts agreed. The difficulty in accessing health of Amazonian peoples requires a coordinated response from States, indigenous organizations, United Nations system agencies and other partners in international cooperation. Mechanism of care and support for these populations are needed, the experts indicated.
A recent joint statement by Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin, COICA, and PAHO noted that "high rates of chronic diseases increase the risk of contracting severe cases of COVID-19” and that chronic child malnutrition, high maternal mortality rates, malaria and dengue in indigenous communities add to the emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It said Indigenous organizations in the Amazon have developed protocols and are using ancestral medicine resources to deal with the pandemic.
COICA and PAHO called 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,” with particular emphasis on populations living in voluntary isolation.
The meeting was attended by experts from the sub-regional Andean Health Agency (ORAS CONHU), the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (OTCA), the Fiocruz Foundation, OCHA, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Inter-American Development Bank, AECID, EU ECHO and other international partners.