Monday, July 30, 2007

Indigenous Peoples: Living on the Edge

In 2004, no less than the United Nations Economic and Social Committee noted that “indigenous peoples in many countries continue to be among the poorest and most marginalized.” The comment was made in light of the conclusion of the first International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which commenced in 1994. Admitting that the the first Decade was a failure, a second International Decade was started in 2005.

Judging from the health situation of indigenous peoples, it seems that the second Decade is bound to be another failure unless concrete measures are taken to improve the lives of indigenous peoples.

This July, HAIN releases the latest issue of Health Alert (Issue No. 10) which delves into the health issues faced by indigenous peoples. The editorial provides a brief profile of indigenous peoples, as well as the importance of land to their well-being. It maintains that unless the indigenous peoples’ right to land and self-determination is respected, no amount of intervention can make a difference.

Two articles, “Health care for the Orang Asli: consequences of paternalism and non-recognition” and “Indigenous people’s survival: our environment, our lives,” give a brief explanation of the indigenous peoples’ concept of health and well-being. Also, the first article examines how paternalism and lack of sensitivity in handling indigenous peoples’ concerns further worsen the people’s health situation. The second article, meanwhile, shows the effect of environmental degradation in the lives of indigenous peoples.

This also features articles on the health situation of Taiwanese and Australian Aborigines. “Saving Taiwan’s Aborigines” shows that Taiwanese Aborigines have shorter lifespan than non-Aborigines. It also highlights the growing concern for the alarming rise of diabetes cases among Aboriginals. “Australian Aborigines: a proud past; a checkered future” takes a look at the higher rate of mental and emotional distress among Australian Aborigines. It is emphasized that the skewed rate does not point to genetic aberrations; rather, it is the direct result of the social disintegration and neglect suffered by Australian Aborigines.

“The Mangyans of Mindoro: Tough life, ailing conditions” illustrates how apathy, government neglect, and militarization adversely affect the health and lives of indigenous peoples.

The last article, “The quest for the green gold,” focuses on biopiracy and how the act further marginalizes indigenous peoples.

The special issue, “Creating Roads to SRH,” provides a fresh angle in the discussion of delivery of health services in far-flung areas; detailing how the lack of roads and other vital infrastructures adversely affect a community.

To request copies of the Health Alert Asia Pacific, please email or We will also post in this blog some of the articles included in this issue.