News / Africa

Indigenous Peoples Have More Health Problems

Mbororo children in Cameroon. Credit: Emma Eastwood / MRG
Mbororo children in Cameroon. Credit: Emma Eastwood / MRG

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on indigenous peoples study

Joe DeCapua
A new report says the world’s minorities and indigenous peoples suffer more ill health than other segments of the population. It says decades of marginalization, poverty and displacement have led to profound health inequalities.


Minority Rights Group International has released its annual report: State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. 

“The right to health, as you know, is a precondition for all other rights. It’s essentially the right to survive. We found that health outcomes generally are far worse for minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide,” said Carl Soderbergh, the group’s director of policy and communications.

He said no one region is worse than another.

“We see this right across the board whether we’re talking about Roma in Europe with higher infant mortality rates to indigenous communities and Afro-descendant in the Americas. Indigenous children in Guatemala, for example, suffer chronic malnutrition nearly twice the rate of majority children. In South Asia, also, we see high child malnutrition rates among the Dalit community -- and in many countries in Africa, also, worse health indicators for minorities and indigenous peoples,” he said.

Soderbergh said the report cites the main cause of marginalization.

“Essentially, it boils down to one word – exclusion. That minorities and indigenous peoples do not get to be involved in the design and implementation of major national healthcare initiatives. For example, very often healthcare campaigns are not conducted in minority or indigenous languages. This is a particular problem we’ve seen in Africa.”

He gave an example of exclusion in Namibia.

“We understand that no health campaigns have been conducted in the San indigenous languages. And so therefore San communities are excluded from the very vital knowledge about HIV/AIDS prevention. That’s just one example, but there are many right across the continent,” he said.

The Minority Rights Group International report says that loss of land and displacement have contributed to poor health.

“First of all,” he said, “it exacerbates the poverty level of minority and indigenous communities. So, they may not be able to afford, if they are sick, the transport costs to get to healthcare clinics. They may not be able to afford the fees when they arrive. And also, very crucially, they’ll lose access to the traditional medicines that they have learnt about, over the centuries, and used.”

Soderbergh added, for example, the Batwa people of the Great Lakes region have suffered major displacement. But the communities that still had access to traditional medicines seemed to fare better than those who did not.

According to the report, some cultural practices are also affecting the health of minorities and indigenous peoples. It names early marriage and female genital mutilation as major risk factors.

“These two practices in particular the increase the risk of something called obstetric fistula, which is a gynecological problem that can be deadly if not treated. And certainly leads to the exclusion of minority and indigenous women, who have this problem,” he said.

Obstetric fistula can occur during prolonged hard labor in childbirth. A fistula is a hole or tear between the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina. It leaves a woman incontinent and often shunned by the community because of the odor.

Minority Rights Group International said minority and indigenous communities must be involved in the design and implementation of health care initiatives. It calls on the U.N. General Assembly to hold meaningful consultations on the issue. The United Nations is scheduled to hold a summit on indigenous peoples late next year.

Soderbergh warned that any programs that replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals are “doomed to fail unless discrimination towards minorities and indigenous peoples is urgently addressed.”

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid