BACKGROUND BRIEFING

Swine flu

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are known to have contracted swine flu; more than a thousand have died from the virus. The WHO has declared a global flu pandemic.

Tribal peoples are particularly vulnerable to swine flu. Those that are isolated lack immunity to fight outside diseases, while those in regular contact with outsiders often suffer underlying health problems which increase the risk from the virus.

The health gap

Tribal peoples are at greater risk from swine flu because many are living in poverty, even in affluent countries, with severe underlying health problems. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and alcoholism, are often higher in tribal communities, putting them at greater risk of complications from swine flu.

In Australia, Aborigines, who have a life expectancy 15-20 years less than non-Aborigines, account for almost one in ten deaths from swine flu.

In Canada, First Nations communities in Manitoba have seen infection rates of 130 per 100,000, compared with 24 per 100,000 among the general population.

See Survival’s report, Progress Can Kill, which explains the reasons behind the health gap.

Isolated tribes

Isolated tribes, those with little or no regular contact with non-indigenous populations, lack immunity to outside diseases. Even the common cold can prove fatal to isolated peoples who have never been exposed to the virus before.

I believe that this pandemic will reveal what it means, in life-and-death terms, when health needs and health systems have been neglected, for decades, in large parts of the world.Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General

Swine flu has already struck members of the Matsigenka tribe in the Peruvian Amazon, leading to fears of a devastating contagion amongst isolated tribes with no immunity to outside diseases.

In times of a global pandemic, it is even more important for the land rights of isolated peoples to be recognized and protected. Any encroachment on their land could introduce swine flu to the tribes with disastrous consequences.

Action

Survival is urging governments and healthcare agencies across the world to make special provisions for tribal peoples during the swine flu pandemic.h2. From Survival’s website

*Progress Can Kill – Survival’s campaign on tribal people’s health
*Amazon Indians struck by swine flu
*Tourism threat to recently-contacted tribe

From the web

* WHO situation update
* The Lancet indigenous health report
* Flu risk for indigenous peoples


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