Story at a glance
- More than 70,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported since July 6 among indigenous peoples in the Americas with more than 2,000 deaths.
- At least six cases have been reported among the Nahua people, who live in the Peruvian Amazon.
- WHO officials said indigenous peoples often lack political representation and access to health, education and social services.
As the coronavirus has infected more than 14.5 million people and killed more than 607,000 globally since the first outbreak began late last year, health leaders are warning that COVID-19 is especially risky for the half a billion indigenous people around the world.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday emphasized that world’s poorest people are particularly vulnerable to the virus, including indigenous populations that often lack political representation and access to health, education and social services.
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“Indigenous peoples often have a high burden of poverty, unemployment, malnutrition and both communicable and non-communicable diseases, making them more vulnerable to COVID-19 and its severe outcomes,” Tedros said during a news conference in Geneva.
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“Although COVID-19 is a risk for all indigenous peoples globally, WHO is deeply concerned about the impact of the virus on indigenous peoples in the Americas, which remains the current epicenter of the pandemic,” he said.
The WHO chief said that since the beginning of July, more than 70,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported among indigenous peoples in the Americas with more than 2,000 deaths. At least six cases have been reported among the Nahua people, who live in the Peruvian Amazon.
Tedros said WHO is working with the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin to fight COVID-19 in remote areas and urged nations to take all necessary health precautions, emphasizing the importance of contact tracing.
“One of the key tools for suppressing transmission in indigenous communities — and all communities — is contact tracing,” he said.
“We do not have to wait for a vaccine. We have to save lives now,” he added.
The U.S. and Brazil lead the world in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths.
WHO on Sunday reported 259,848 new COVID-19 cases globally in 24 hours, the highest daily figure so far since the pandemic began.
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