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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid