Historically, indigenous peoples the world over have been devastated by diseases imported into their communities by outsiders.
Today, rampant poverty and lack of investment in public health, housing, food and water services only increases the risks they face from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia: Overcrowded and at-risk
Aboriginal people in Australia’s Northern Territory and elsewhere are highly susceptible to COVID-19, and as the pandemic alarm has mounted, they’ve closed themselves off from the outside world.
Yet impoverished aboriginal communities are on an average three times more crowded than those of European-descended Australians.
Health officials there are urging the national government to open up vacant hotels, office spaces, rental units, and to even provide tents for any aboriginal group or individual that needs isolation and quarantine.
North America: Water crisis
Indigenous communities in Canada and Alaska are heading into the pandemic without adequate health-care services, overcrowded living conditions, and unsafe water systems.
Advocates say that governments across the north need to address these critical infrastructure needs to lessen the pandemic’s impacts.
In Canada, one parliamentarian told reporters: “When we hear the federal government telling people to wash their hands, how do you do that when there’s no running water? When you hear the government tell you that you need to self-isolate, how do you do that when you live in a house of 10 to 20 people?”