Lancet: Eviction from land is bad for Bushmen’s health

June 26, 2006

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The Lancet, the world's leading medical journal, has published an article heavily criticising the Botswana government's eviction of the Gana and Gwi Bushmen from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. The report says that far from improving the Bushmen's lives, eviction has led to a dramatic deterioration in their health.

‘The forced removal of the San [Bushmen] from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana provides a stark example both of prejudice and the exercise of majority power, and of the consequences to the social structure and health of the dispossessed,' reads the article.

The Lancet cites increasing exposure to HIV/AIDS as an example of the effects of eviction on the Bushmen. It also states that across Botswana, ‘increasing consumption of alcohol in San settlements has been reported over the last two decades, attributed to cultural upheaval and loss of land, resources and community networks.'

The article emphasises the importance of land rights in determining Indigenous peoples' health in Africa. ‘[E]vidence indicates that Indigenous health is systematically worse in many respects than that of majority populations, particularly where through loss of land and other natural resources they are no longer able to maintain traditional livelihoods and sustain traditional culture, knowledge and institutions.

‘Indigenous people define themselves in terms of their relationships with their land, making their environment essential not only for physical provisioning and regulating services but also for physical and cultural survival.'

Bushman leader Roy Sesana, who lives in one of the government resettlement camps, says, ‘JCBs and caterpillars are working here now but they aren't doing development, they are bringing in AIDS… We only expect old people to die, but right now we are dying like never before.'

To read the Lancet's summary or download the article in full click here

To read the Lancet's series on Indigenous health click here

For further information contact Miriam Ross on (+44) (0)20 7687 8734 or email [email protected]