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“Ethnocide by omission”, the threat to indigenous peoples during the pandemic

May 23, 2020

Indigenous peoples make up around 5% of the world’s population, a small proportion that does not reflect the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had and could have on them. Culture shock, marginalization and racism set them on the path to “ethnocide through omission”.

COVID-19 has affected more than five million people worldwide, of whom more than 300,000 have lost their lives. It is currently unknown how many victims there are among the 370 million indigenous people living on the planet according to United Nations calculations.

“Unfortunately, this is one of the problems we are facing because the countries in which indigenous peoples live do not have disaggregated statistics,” the new UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, José Francisco Calí Tzay, told Europa Press.

“Ethnocide by omission”, the threat to indigenous peoples during the pandemic
“Ethnocide by omission”, the threat to indigenous peoples during the pandemic

One of the reasons why there is no exact data is mistrust. “Many communities do not notify the authorities when someone is infected because … they take the patient, take him to the hospital, and then only report that he died,” says Calí Tzay. This is the case of an indigenous community of Cuna in Panama, in which “a sick young man went to the hospital and only delivered a small boat with his ashes a few days later”. “His cousin said to me: ‘What certainty do I have that he is my cousin’?”