The fate of the world’s remaining indigenous peoples, the fragile environment they occupy, and the valuable knowledge that they embody could well be decided once and for all by the new disease COVID19, which is spreading at great speed across all the continents and certainly will hit the indigenous communities of the Americas, Africa and Asia if governments and corporations which have invaded their territories do not take all the necessary steps to protect them.
Let’s not forget that ever since the first European contact, infectious diseases have led to the disappearance of more than 70% of the inhabitants of the forests for lack of biological defense and natural immunity.
A COVID19 outbreak in these remote indigenous areas of the forests would be catastrophic, a nightmare scenario called injustice, inequity, and colonization.
This is why Rainforest Fund is mindful of the dual global crises of Covid19 and climate change through its partners in the field is helping them to prevent the spread of the disease in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Kenya (and more countries to be added) by restricting access to their territories, and monitoring that these restrictions into indigenous territories are respected. It is important to guarantee that communities have the public health information they need to make informed decisions about how to protect themselves through pamphlets in local languages widely disseminated.
Furthermore in Kenya there is an urgent need to buy basic preventive clothing, masks, temperature guns for the volunteers going into the forest as well as phones, provision of waters, hand soup, sanitizers and install milk collection points for the children.
This disease will exacerbate the threats indigenous communities are already facing which makes the mission of our partners – to build indigenous power and help them protect their lands and cultures – more important than ever.
For indigenous peoples who carry living memories of ancestors and family members dying from smallpox, yellow fever, influenza and measles, COVID19 represents an existential threat to their very physical and cultural survival.
Let’s do all what we can to give them the help and support they desperately need.
Dr. Franca Sciuto