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The Impact and Implications of COVID-19 on Indigenous People Report

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Updated: Jun 24th, 2022

Introduction

As an infectious disease, COVID-19 has been considered a major health threat for the whole world since its discovery in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. However, indigenous population groups are affected by this virus way more than the general population. It can be explained by a combination of several factors, including poor access to healthcare, as well as the lack of access to vital services and sanitation. Currently, it is difficult to predict when the coronavirus pandemic will be over, which is why it is essential to take appropriate measures to prevent the vast spread of this infectious disease. In spite of the fact that numerous countries of the world have started the process of vaccination, indigenous individuals constantly experience issues related to receiving vaccinations. Thus, the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has significantly affected the lives of indigenous population groups in different countries of the world, as these individuals are frequently discriminated against in terms of business, society, and economy.

General Information

At the moment, COVID-19 is widely known as an infectious disease that affects not only health but also worldwide economic activity, education, and society. As of March 2021, approximately 140 million individuals were diagnosed with this disease throughout the entire world (Sudre et al. 2021). Even though the pandemic has been lasting for over a year already, its prevalence is still tremendously high. In fact, over three million people died due to the complications of coronavirus (Sudre et al. 2021). In turn, the complications usually include pneumonia, organ failure, heart problems, kidney injury, and blood clots. Elderly population groups are at high risk of developing severe symptoms of COVID-19, although new types of this disease are likely to affect the health of children and adults as well. Indigenous individuals belong to the social group at higher risk from emerging infectious diseases as well.

Aboriginal people have always faced systemic health, racial, and social inequalities. However, these inequalities became more obvious in the past year. Presently, nearly 476 million indigenous and tribal people live on the planet (Goha et al., 2021). Taking into consideration that these individuals have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, and asthma, they are more likely to be injected with COVID-19 than the general population. In fact, it is predicted that populations residing on reservations have four times higher rates of coronavirus cases (Goha et al., 2021). Moreover, the economic and social disruption put considerable pressure on the life of these individuals. Therefore, it is essential to analyze the impact and implications of COVID-19 on native individuals in order to minimize the morbidity and mortality rate caused by the pandemic.

Employment and Working Conditions

First, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the indigenous labor market not only in Australia but in the whole world. Despite the fact that around 63% of aboriginal people are in employment, they are still more disadvantaged than the general population (Button and Walker 2020). Currently, this trend can be considered the result of political exclusion, historical oppression, and limited infrastructure. For instance, indigenous females are 25% more likely to be working in the informal economy than non-aboriginal females, whereas this kind of economy is expected to fall by over 75% as a response to the coronavirus crisis (Button and Walker 2020). Hence, low wages accelerate the process of falling into poverty, which means individuals will have limited access to healthcare and education.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has also affected the native labor market in terms of sectors. In other words, the global crisis requires this population group to focus on low-skilled positions, as a variety of globally known companies have decided to reduce staff (AHCWA 2020). In turn, a high level of competition is the reason why indigenous people have to work among poorly-educated workers to earn money to satisfy basic human needs. Simultaneously, aboriginal population groups still experience workplace discrimination, even though it is usually expressed unconsciously.

Access to Healthcare

At present, indigenous individuals are more likely to get injected with COVID-19 due to a combination of multiple factors, such as high levels of poverty, unemployment, and malnutrition. One of the main reasons why these people have poor access to appropriate healthcare services is that this population mainly lives in rural areas. In turn, rural areas are usually characterized by low-quality medical infrastructure. Taking into account that numerous individuals decided to spend lockdown in rural areas, it resulted in a considerable increase in the number of patients who required medical care there. For instance, approximately three-quarters of indigenous people report some degree of inaccessibility to health facilities (Horrill et al. 2018). In fact, local healthcare providers do not have the opportunity to serve such a high number of people.

Furthermore, some population groups live under circumstances when there is tremendously poor access to hand sanitizers, water, and soap. Considering that these elements play an essential role in terms of preventing COVID-19, native people significantly increase the chances of suffering from the complications of coronavirus. Additionally, these individuals still struggle with discrimination in clinical settings. It is frequently based on their ethnic background or racial features, which should be taken into consideration with the help of culturally appropriate health services (Horrill et al. 2018). In case appropriate measures are not taken, the overall health status of indigenous population groups will be significantly worsened.

Access to Education

In light of the COVID-19 restrictions and precautions, education provision has been limited in different parts of the world. For example, regular school education was transformed in the format of online education in the majority of countries. Therefore, currently, the quality of school education depends on access to the Internet and certain gadgets. Taking into consideration that on average indigenous individuals are three times more likely to live in poor conditions, numerous families do not have the financial opportunity to afford strong Internet connection and multifunctioning gadgets (Andersen et al. 2017). As a result, the learning process of native people is frequently associated with inequalities. Simultaneously, this kind of education disturbs the lives of students, educators, and researchers.

Presently, it is also crucial to focus on both the medical education and the mental health impacts of school closures. In fact, high-quality education has always been connected to improved health outcomes, employment, and income (Burgess, Bishop and Lowe 2020). In the context of indigenous population groups, these individuals have limited access to medical education due to the lack of appropriate sources and infrastructure to achieve this goal. From the perspective of the mental health impact of online learning on the well-being of this population group, it is important to note significant improvements. It can be explained by the fact that online education is associated with less discrimination.

Social Protection

Marginalization, discrimination, and exclusion have a considerable impact not only on the poverty level and quality of education but also on social protection. In spite of the fact that there are numerous policies that are implemented in order to improve the existing social protection of indigenous individuals, they are considered tremendously ineffective. In some countries, the level of social protection is lower than 10%, which means that it is difficult to promote efficient labor markets and diminish people’s exposure to risks (Cooke et al. 2017). As a part of national development strategies, social protection significantly depends on discrimination, as well as economic and social disadvantages. Therefore, considering that highlighted disadvantages have developed into a global problem during the global pandemic, aboriginal people suffer from the lack of appropriate social insurance, labor market, social assistance, community protection, and child protection.

It is essential to implement policies that would be based on the idea to minimize the spread of COVID-19 among indigenous individuals. For instance, the Brazilian government adopted a law that considers social protection as an effective measure to prevent the contagion and dissemination of coronavirus on indigenous territories (Silva et al. 2021). This type of social protection includes sanitary and epidemiological surveillance, as well as food security actions, to improve the overall health status of native population groups during a pandemic. Accordingly, this example of social protection over epidemiological threat is expected to bring positive results in the nearest future, as it takes into account a mix of different preventative measures recognized by the World Health Organization.

Food and Land Security

In the twenty-first century, all individuals, regardless of their ethnic background, race, or sexual orientation, should have the right to adequate food. In turn, indigenous people have always been highlighting the importance of land entitlement over their traditional territories. On the one hand, the local government should review this request in a short period of time. On the other hand, the intention to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is more relevant at the present time. Therefore, the request for a land entitlement is currently left unsolved due to the global pandemic.

Simultaneously, conflicts concerning access to land and water have been on the rise lately. In fact, many indigenous people were required to transform their livelihood options. For example, the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the whole world has turned landowners and farmers into low-paid factory workers (Lugo-Morin 2020). In other words, the coronavirus crisis has considerably affected the rights of numerous aboriginal population groups for their own lands and territories. As a result, this problem creates barriers on the way to performing appropriate farming activities.

Recommendations

In order to improve the quality of life of indigenous people during a pandemic, it is essential to follow specific recommendations that can be applied to different areas of life. For instance, when it comes to poor access to education, local governments should take into consideration political frameworks that ensure the knowledge is accessible to every member of a certain population group. For example, school education should be based on the principles of individually paced learning, culturally safe learning environments, and local community involvement (Hart, Moore and Laverty 2017). From the perspective of access to healthcare, it is important to combine several actions. The actions include partnering with hospitals that are held in congregations, teaming up with retail healthcare organizations, as well as developing telehealth technologies.

In addition, the employment and working conditions of indigenous population groups should also be considered and improved. First, the skill levels of aboriginal people should be increased with the help of formal education and training (Jones et al. 2019). Second, in order to make the process of employment easier for this population group, it is crucial to perform customized training. Furthermore, it is recommended to maintain a safe working environment with the help of appropriate policies. Lastly, cross-cultural training for employers should be regularly arranged. In case initiatives that address the broader workplace culture are implemented, the working experience of indigenous individuals will be tremendously beneficial for their mental health. Consequently, in order to have a positive impact on the lives of aboriginal people during the global pandemic, it is important to consider a mix of different interventions.

Conclusion

The outbreak of COVID-19 has tremendously changed the lives of all individuals in different parts of the world. At the same time, aboriginal population groups have been affected by the pandemic more than the general population. When it comes to employment, these individuals are required to apply for low-skilled positions due to political exclusion and limited infrastructure. In the context of access to healthcare, aboriginal people are frequently discriminated against as well. It can be explained by the fact that the majority of aboriginal population groups live in rural areas where hospitals are understaffed. Lastly, the spread of coronavirus has affected indigenous individuals from the perspective of education, as it has transformed from school-based settings to the online format. In turn, numerous representatives of the indigenous group do not have proper access to the Internet and appropriate electronic gadgets. Therefore, it is essential to follow specific recommendations in order to minimize the negative impact of COVID-19 on the lives of aboriginal people.

References

AHCWA. 2020. . Web.

Andersen, Melanie, Anna Williamson, Peter Fernando, Darryl Wright, and Sally Redman. 2017. “Housing Conditions of Urban Households with Aboriginal Children in NSW Australia: Tenure Type Matters”. BMC Public Health 18 (1): 1-20. Web.

Burgess, Catherine, Michelle Bishop, and Kevin Lowe. 2020. “Decolonising Indigenous Education: The Case for Cultural Mentoring in Supporting Indigenous Knowledge Reproduction”. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 2 (12): 1-14. Web.

Button, Patrick, and Brigham Walker. 2020. “Employment Discrimination Against Indigenous Peoples in The United States: Evidence from a Field Experiment”. Labour Economics 65 (2): 101-151. Web.

Cooke, Fadzilah Majid, Johan Nordensvard, Gusni Bin Saat, Frauke Urban, and Giuseppina Siciliano. 2017. “The Limits of Social Protection: The Case of Hydropower Dams and Indigenous Peoples’ Land”. Asia & The Pacific Policy Studies 4 (3): 437-450. Web.

Goha, Ahmed, Kenechukwu Mezue, Paul Edwards, Kristofer Madu, Dainia Baugh, Edwin Tulloch-Reid, Felix Nunura, Chyke Doubeni, and Ernest Madu. 2021. “Indigenous People and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Tip of an Iceberg of Social and Economic Inequities”. Journal of Epidemiological Community Health 2 (75): 207-208. Web.

Hart, Michael, Michael Moore, and Martin Laverty. 2017. “Improving Indigenous Health Through Education”. Medical Journal of Australia 207 (1): 11-12. Web.

Horrill, Tara, Diana McMillan, Annette Schultz, and Genevieve Thompson. 2018. “Understanding Access to Healthcare Among Indigenous Peoples: A Comparative Analysis of Biomedical and Postcolonial Perspectives”. Nursing Inquiry 25 (3): 122-137. Web.

Jones, Rhys, Lynden Crowshoe, Papaarangi Reid, Betty Calam, Elana Curtis, Michael Green, and Tania Huria et al. 2019. “Educating for Indigenous Health Equity”. Academic Medicine 94 (4): 512-519. Web.

Lugo-Morin, Diosey. 2020. “Indigenous Communities and Their Food Systems: A Contribution to the Current Debate”. Journal of Ethnic Foods 7 (1): 33-39. Web.

Silva, Luciana, Patrícia Nascimento, Ordália Araújo, and Tamiris Pereira. 2021. “The Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil in Facing the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Frontiers in Sociology 6 (23): 1-18. Web.

Sudre, Carole H., Benjamin Murray, Thomas Varsavsky, Mark S. Graham, Rose S. Penfold, Ruth C. Bowyer, and Joan Capdevila Pujol et al. 2021. “Attributes and Predictors of Long COVID”. Nature Medicine 27 (4): 626-631. Web.

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