Reports sent to the UN and IACHR on the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil and Colombia under the threat of COVID-19
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In the face of the global health crisis resulting from COVID-19, the reports seek to draw the attention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to the special vulnerability of indigenous peoples in Brazil and Colombia.
The reports highlight that, beyond the low immunity of these peoples, many State practices are putting them at even greater risk.
Althoughthe right to health of indigenous peoples is already at risk in normal contexts, their vulnerability is exacerbated in exceptional situations, such as disasters. Because of its severity, the effects of a global pandemic should becomparable to the level of social disorder resulting from a disaster. Thus, in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic, access to health services by many indigenous communities is made even more difficult by the overcrowding of health care posts and the restriction of transport and roads. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, "pandemic processes produce disproportionate impacts on populations with the greatest difficulties of access to health care facilities and technologies within countries, such as indigenous peoples". The IACHR "reminded states of their duty to provide special protection for indigenous peoples and the importance of providing them clear information about the pandemic in their traditional language, whenever possible". In addition, the IACHR madea special call to States "to observe the utmost respect for noncontact with indigenous peoples or segments of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation, given the grave effects that contracting COVID-19 could have on their survival".
Brazilian indigenous people are even more exposed to COVID-19 due to structural problems in health care in Brazil. The scrapping of the Indigenous Health Secretariat, which is responsible for the care of more than 765,000 indigenous people in the country, has been denounced since last year by indigenous entities. The weakening of indigenous institutions will likely cause a dramatic impact on these populations during the pandemic.
According to the information available from the Territorial Monitoring System of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), 67% of the indigenous territories that reported information have no health personnel, and 73% have not received any training on the pandemic. No community reported having biosecurity elements for the containment plan and 90% do not have drinking water. With regard to the availability of food for the indigenous communities to face the isolation stage, it is reported that only 30% of the 205 communities that provided information stated that they had their own food; 79% of these reports state that they do not have food reserves for the time of isolation within their territories.