Tribal people at risk of extinction from diabetes

November 13, 2007

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As 14 November marks the first UN World Diabetes Day, a new report from Survival has highlighted the catastrophic impact of diabetes on tribal people who have been removed from their land.

The problem is so serious that Professor Paul Zimmet of the International Diabetes Institute has said, ‘Without urgent action there certainly is a real risk of a major wipe-out [due to diabetes] of Indigenous communities, if not total extinction, within this century.’

Survival’s new report on Indigenous people’s health, ‘Progress can kill’, details the horrific rise in diabetes amongst tribal people who have been forced off their land and into a sedentary lifestyle. The Pima Indians of Arizona are a striking example: more than half of the Pima over the age of 35 have the disease. In Australia, Aborigines are 22 times more likely to die from diabetes than other Australians.

When tribal peoples are separated from their land, the resulting change of diet from high-protein to high-fat food often leads to diabetes. The disease can lead to blindness, kidney failure, strokes, heart disease and amputations.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Diabetes is a stark example of how forcing Western ideas of ‘development’ on tribal people leads to the breakdown of their health. Diabetes amongst tribal people living on their own land is extremely rare, but for those forced off their land in the name of ‘progress’, it is one of the biggest threats to their survival.’

Read Survival’s report ‘Progress can kill’

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