12M indigenous people suffer poverty, abuses

Published by rudy Date posted on February 11, 2010

AT least 12 million indigenous people in the Philippines continue to suffer from poverty and human rights abuses, a United Nations State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples report said.

The 12 million Filipinos are part of the 370 million indigenous people representing one third of the worldwide population who have to contend, among others, with issues like violence and brutality, dispossession of land, the negative impacts of large scale development, abuses by military forces and violation of their human rights.

The UN report’s regional facts and figures showed that in the Philippines, indigenous individuals were alleged to be members of a splinter group of the communist rebels, as earlier bared by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in his visit to the Philippines in 2007.

Based on the records of the UN Development Programme in the Philippines (UNDP), the country has around 14 to 17 million indigenous peoples belonging to ethno-linguistic groups. They are mainly found in the Cordillera Administrative Region (33 percent) and Mindanao (61 percent) while some groups are in the Visayas area.

Dr. Jacqueline Badcock, UN resident coordinator in the Philippines, noted that indigenous peoples in the country often face pressure on their lands because of mining, threats to traditional livelihood and armed conflict.

“In the Philippines, indigenous people estimated at 12 to 15 million experience the same challenges as their brothers and sisters worldwide, namely poverty, human rights violations, cultural degradation and lack of equal access to basic social services such as education and healthcare,” Badcock said during the report’s Manila launch held at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City on Tuesday.

“They often face tremendous pressure on their ancestral lands and domains due to various forms of encroachments such as large-scale industrial projects,” she added.

Health also suffers
Such a situation puts the health of the indigenous people in an alarming state. According to the same UN publication, the life expectancy of indigenous peoples is up to 20 years which is lower than their non-indigenous counterparts. Likewise, indigenous peoples also experience high levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, cardiovascular illnesses, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Suicide rates of indigenous peoples, particularly among the youth, are considerably higher in many countries. For example, the suicide rate among the Inuit people in Canada is 11 times the national average.

To mainstream the protection and participation promised to the indigenous peoples, the UNDP launched the Strengthening Indigenous People Peoples’ Rights and Development (Siprid) program which will help facilitate the greater mainstreaming of indigenous peoples concerns across the development agenda. The program will run from 2010 to 2011.

The focus of the Siprd is to secure the rights of the indigenous people to the sustainable use, management and protection of ancestral lands, supporting the implementation of good governance principles and promoting indigenous peace-building mechanisms. –LLANESCA T. PANTI Reporter, Manila Times

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