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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs