Delivered by Trevor Stratton, NGO North America
Thank you, Vinnay.
When I look around the room, I see representatives from at least 19 countries where Indigenous Peoples are recognized to reside.
According to the Stop TB Partnership, the world’s 370 million Indigenous Peoples face a plethora of issues caused by displacement, dispossession, loss of livelihood, systematic racism, abuse, and lack of recognition.
Further hindering an adequate response to these challenges, there is a pervasive lack of data about Indigenous Peoples concerning health and other key development indicators. Data that are available show a prevalence of extreme poverty and severe health disparities that include TB.
Data further indicate that Indigenous Peoples universally experience higher TB burdens than their non-indigenous counterparts and struggle with access to services due to remote location, severe discrimination, and lack of health programming that can accommodate their non-Western views of health and well-being.
Allow me to provide an example of over representation of TB among Inuit People, an Indigenous Group in Canada’s arctic, a high-income country in the 21st century.
Canada, considered a high-income country with very low TB prevalence, recently announced $22 million dollars over 5 years to eradicate TB in every Inuit region. Aligning with a global theme for Indigenous Peoples, incidence of TB is closely tied to living conditions and social determinants such as crowded housing, food insecurity and lack of access to culturally-appropriate health care services.
We’re playing catch-up with Indigenous Peoples in Canada with record numbers of active TB cases and latent TB.
The average annual rate of tuberculosis (TB) among Inuit in Canada is now more than 290 times higher than Canadian born non-Indigenous people. How did this happen?
A public health approach that includes and alternatives and or innovative measures to reduce the number of TB cases within an Indigenous Group in a developed country is ESSENTIAL TO ADDRESSING THIS SEVERE HEALTH DISPARITY. BY relieving overcrowding and ensuring access to harm reduction, prevention, counselling, adequate nutrition and other health services, WE CAN BEGIN TO ADDRESS SOME OF THE GAPS.
We know that racism (yes, it happens in Canada, as it happens in every single country too) and other forms of marginalization lead to discrimination and disproportionate provision, accessibility and quality of health care services. Just a few months ago, in the mainly Inuit community of Nain, my close friend’s 14-year-old nephew, Gussie Bennett died needlessly from TB. Many Inuit people have unanswered questions and fears about his diagnosis and death. From the perspective of the Inuit, healthcare service providers consider TB as an after-thought.
Article 23 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that, “Indigenous Peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, Indigenous Peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.
Article 24.2 reaffirms that, “Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.
The NGO Delegation must insist that the highest attainable standard of health be afforded to Indigenous Peoples globally, including the Inuit regions in Canada, and we call for the equal treatment for all people. It is long past time for a global catch-up plan for HIV and TB for Indigenous Peoples.