Include Indigenous communities in MDGs or watch them die a slow death, experts warn

tion to get Indigenous peoples' health included into the MDGs, and for the issue to be placed high on the agenda at the UN's MDG forthcoming conference in September.

'Even though we know they experience worse health conditions than even their poor non-indigenous counterparts living in the same countries, Indigenous children rarely get a mention in global health initiatives', comments Dr. Carolyn Stephens, who is leading the LSHTM team.

'Small numbers of deaths in minority populations will not affect the MDGs at all. This may mean that they can be achieved even as indigenous people gradually disappear from our world. At the moment, their very focus on headline-capturing big numbers has an impact on Indigenous peoples both in terms of their international visibility, and in fund allocation'.

The authors describe the importance and value of Indigenous wisdom for the future of international health and medicine, and point out that some of the most significant pharmaceutical breakthroughs in Western medicine have originated from, and continue to be found in Indigenous plants.

Dr Stephens adds: 'Indigenous people will continue to be exploited by governments, and to suffer great health disadvantage, unless their rights are recognised internationally. We want the second International Decade to have a far stronger and more radical emphasis on indigenous rights, and new policies for indigenous health. We want the issue to be top of the agenda when the UN meets in September to discuss progress in achieving the MDGs. And we want this decade to be remembered as the one in which the United Nations finally ratified the Draft Treaty on Indigenous People's Rights'.

Today, Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, made an urgent appeal to action, concluding "Perhaps the most urgent call of all is to remove the cloak of invisibility from the shoulders of indigenous peoples--not only to reveal their diversity and heritage, but also to reflect on th

Contact: Lindsay Wright
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

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