WHO was specifically concerned about covid-19 cases among Peru’s Amazonian Nahua people.
WHO courtesy photo

Published Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Covid-19 impacts indigenous people,
reports WHO

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff and wire services

The World Health Organization, WHO, expressed concern Monday about the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the Indigenous populations in the Americas.

According to a Voice of America Journal report, speaking at his regular briefing from agency headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while covid-19 is a risk for all of the world’s Indigenous people, the agency is deeply concerned about the impact of the virus on Indigenous people in the Americas, the current epicenter of the pandemic.

Tedros reports that as of July 6, 2020, more than 70,000 cases have been reported among Indigenous people in the Americas and more than 2,000 deaths. He was specifically concerned about covid-19 cases among Peru’s Amazonian Nahua people.

According to a VOA report, WHO’s regional office for the Americas recently published recommendations for preventing and responding to covid-19 among Indigenous people.

The agency is also working with the coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin to step up the fight against the coronavirus.

The Director General also stressed the need for contact tracing to keep the coronavirus from spreading in all communities. “Contact tracing is essential for every country, in every situation. It can prevent individual cases from becoming clusters, and clusters turning into community transmission.”

As of Monday, WHO reports 14,263,202 confirmed cases of covid-19 worldwide, with 602,244 deaths. The Americas remains the region with the largest total number of cases with 7,517,712. The United States continues to lead the world with 3,618,497 cases. Brazil is second, with 2,074,860 cases.

Last week, in Costa Rica,  the National Emergency Commission reported that mattresses and other objects were set on fire in front of an indigenous community center, a covid-19 shelter, located in Turrialba Canton in Cartago Province.

The shelter was enable by the Commission to attend people infected with covid-19 or suspected of having the virus.

A mother and her 2-month-old baby girl, both infected with covid-19, were staying inside the shelter when it was set ablaze. The small family came from an indigenous territory looking for health attention. The baby is currently hospitalized at the Children's Hospital.

There were also three indigenous people living in the same shelter, who were there in isolation as a preventive measure while they waited for the results of their covid-19 tests.

To safeguard the lives of these people, the Commission reported that they were transferred to another shelter located in the Grano de Oro community, also in the Turrialba Canton.

The Municipality of Turrialba set up two shelters to provide care for people infected with covid-19 and those suspected of being infected, the Commission said in its statement.

According to Alexander Solís, president of the Commission, what happened was regrettable. He clarifies that keeping infected people in sanitary shelters allows protection for the rest of the citizens of the canton.

"These facts mean a clear ignorance of the way of transmission of the virus, as well as a lack of solidarity and humanism. The goal of having these shelters in all the cantons of the country is to guarantee the fast isolation (of the patients) for control of the spread of the virus in the community, as well as adequate care for people with a positive covid-19 diagnosis," Solís said.

People who are attended in the shelters are those who cannot comply with the quarantine order in their homes, for safety and health reasons, the Commission said in its statement.

Two other recently sanctioned shelters are located in downtown San José and San Ramon Canton in Alajuela Province. There are 43 people in these shelters, including children who were isolated to prevent further spread of the covid-19 contagion.

What should the government do to reduce the risk of covid-19 contagion on Indigenous communities? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com