World Health Assembly approves draft resolution on health action plan for indigenous people

Global plan should focus on reproductive, maternal and adolescent health, resolution highlights

By Seema Prasad
Published: Tuesday 30 May 2023
World Health Assembly approves draft resolution on action plan for indigenous people
Photo: @WHO / Twitter Photo: @WHO / Twitter

Member states of the World Health Organization accepted a draft resolution that proposed developing a Global Plan of Action for the Health of Indigenous People during the World Health Assembly hosted on May 29, 2023. The plan will be up for consideration at the 79th World Health Assembly in 2026. 

This should be executed in consultation with indigenous peoples, with their free, prior and informed consent, a document presented at the assembly emphasised.

The document also stated that the global plan should be done in consultation with member states along “strategic lines of action for the improvement of the health of Indigenous Peoples in the development of the 14th World Health Organization General Programme of Work”.

The draft resolution was proposed by Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, the European Union and its Member States, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States of America and Vanuatu. 

The world presently has 476 million indigenous people across the world in about 90 countries, according to the United Nations. They speak 7,000 languages and come from 500 different cultures. They are marginalised individuals without access to basic infrastructure and oftentimes cannot claim titles over their land and surrounding natural resources.

However, over the last few decades representation for them has improved on the world's stage. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues established in 2000, for instance, provides advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the Economic and Social Council.

The life expectancy of indigenous people is 20 years lower than that of an average person.

The resolution that was proposed noted that the “indigenous peoples are disproportionately subject to poverty, poor housing, cultural barriers, violence, including gender-based violence, racism, experiencing disability, pollution and lack of access to education, economic opportunities, social protection, water, and sanitation, as well as appropriate resilience planning for climate change and natural and other emergencies”.

The resolution put forward that the global plan be formulated “with a particular emphasis on the reproductive, maternal and adolescent health and with a specific focus on those in vulnerable situations, and bearing in mind local context”.

WHO’s 194 member states were urged to develop a collection of ethical data to identify specific requirements of indigenous people and fill in the gaps. They were also urged to have an intersectional approach to their politics that overcomes geographical barriers, digital connectivity, information availability, remoteness and disability.

Another approach proposed was to use evidence-based traditional medicine, along with medical services offered at the primary healthcare level, which also includes mental health and wellness services.

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