I n over a year that SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, has conquered the planet, it has infected well over 100 million people and claimed more than 2 million lives. It has paralyzed countries, destroyed entire industries, and buried economies under crippling debt.
But the virus has also claimed countless livelihoods and sunk millions of people into unemployment and poverty, only serving to exacerbate the health and social inequalities that had been the sad norm in Indigenous communities.
According to a United Nations report, Indigenous communities have to contend with socioeconomic marginalization that puts them at disproportionate risk during public health emergencies. To COVID-19, Indigenous peoples are especially vulnerable.
“Indigenous communities already experience poor access to healthcare, significantly higher rates of communicable and non-communicable diseases, lack of access to essential services, sanitation, and other key preventive measures,” including those crucial to keeping COVID-19 at bay, such as clean water, soap, and disinfectants.
In cases where health facilities and services are accessible, Indigenous peoples will then need to overcome stigma and discrimination.
Taiwan is one of the few countries today that can still consistently claim victories against the virus. But despite having no large-scale outbreaks, public primary healthcare in its remote tribes has suffered.
Even in Taiwan, it seems, Indigenous communities continue to suffer from these same inequities, leaving them at high risk of infection as the rest of the country enjoys their relative safety.