International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
On the International Day of the World's Indigenous People in 2023, the United Nations (UN) highlights the role of youth and youth participation in desired changes for the future. Indigenous peoples around the world currently face different challenges, including the fact that their basic rights are often persecuted.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), indigenous peoples are estimated to be between 370 and 500 million people worldwide. Just in Latin America, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in 2014, indigenous peoples already totaled more than 44 million individuals. ECLAC points out that within this region, which has heterogeneous features between countries, advances in rights guarantees are limited both in their sustainability and expansion, which puts these people in a situation of greater vulnerability and socioeconomic inequality.
Rights to health
In Brazil, this reality is no different. According to researcher Paulo Basto from the National School of Public Health (Ensp) in a document (only in Portuguese) called "International Day of Indigenous Peoples: Resisting to Celebrate," many peoples still struggle for "basic rights guaranteed in international treaties and the constitution, as well as in complementary legislation defined to safeguard the well-being of these nations in their places of belonging".
One of these rights is the right to health. For ECLAC, the health of indigenous peoples is related to physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional elements, "both from the perspective of individuals and communities, and involves political, economic, social and cultural components."
It is within this diverse context that the journal Reports in Public Health highlights a supplement produced in 2019 called "The health of indigenous children and adolescents in Latin America".
The health of indigenous children and adolescents in Latin America
The theme of the journal is directly related to the UN's proposal for 2023 and shows how the issue is fraught with "complexities due to the health landscape of indigenous peoples in Brazil and Latin America in general, characterized by high loads and overlaps of diseases and high mortality rates associated with socioeconomic, political and environmental changes that occurred in different ways and speeds over time." The edition emphasizes that several studies based on primary and secondary data show a current panorama in Latin America "of the persistence of high mortality and morbidity rates from infectious and parasitic diseases among indigenous children and adolescents." Understanding mortality rates and the spread of diseases among the youngest shows how this should be a dear topic to society.
To further understand the contemporary health scenario of indigenous peoples, a suggestion is the Iberoamerican Journal of Health Law (CIADS) article from 2018 written by Thaís Janaina Wenczenovicz entitled "Indigenous Health: Contemporary Reflections." The study provides an analysis of the socio-historical trajectory of public health policies in both the process of realization and availability of this fundamental right.
Technical training of indigenous health agents
The path to improving health services in indigenous communities involves a multidisciplinary strategy with various actors, respecting the particularities of local realities. This is what Luiza Garnelo's, Sully de Souza's and Ana Lúcia Pontes' highlights in a 2019 book called "Differentiated care: the technical training of indigenous health agents from the Upper Rio Negro." The book is available (only in Portuguese) for reading by Porto Livre of Fiocruz.
Social Movement Ethnography in Latin America
Another highlight is a project undertaken by Fiocruz and TGHN and funded by the "Covid-19: Strengthening Global Research Collaboration and Impact" (MRC/UK, NIHR/UK) with collaboration of research centres in Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador.
The project is called "Social Movement Ethnography in Latin America" a virtual ethnography in Latin America during the pandemic. The document shows indigenous populations, “despite being vulnerable, are powerful and contest the social injustices in which they live.” It is urgent to deconstruct the paradigm that those are passive and/or ill-informed populations. "In reality, the silencing is much more due to the power and capillarity of the oppressive forces than to the capacities that these populations actually have to resist genocide, diverse discriminations, and the increasingly alarming impoverishment” shows the document.
From the understanding of the present moment, it is possible to trace a trajectory of public policies and social actions capable of strengthening the guarantee of basic rights for indigenous peoples, as in the case of health, which will allow today's youth to have a more equal future.