kitatipithitamak mithwayawin: Indigenous-Led Countermeasures to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other Pandemics Then, Now, and Into the Future
The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first identified on December 31 2019 in Wuhan, China. As of February 18 2020, 73,439 COVID‑19 cases have been confirmed in 29 countries around the world with an attributed 1,875 deaths. The World Health Organization recently declared COVID‑19 as a global health emergency. Studies on H1N1 and other pandemics show that Indigenous communities in Canada suffered most from these diseases. Responses to H1N1 were often inadequate and at worst created more harm than good. Communities had poor access to medical experts and supplies. Indigenous organizations were mostly excluded from decision-making. And misinformation generated much fear that still persists today. Yet, many Indigenous communities and organizations also responded effectively and, with others, eventually found ways to reduce the impacts of H1N1. The outbreak of COVID‑19 thus represents a critical moment. On one hand the same mistakes could be made, with similar impacts. On the other hand, there is an opportunity to do things differently in ways that are grounded in the priorities of Indigenous communities and organizations. The goal of this project is to evaluate the implications of past and existing responses to pandemics with respect to Indigenous communities across Canada and to address any gaps in understanding and support related to COVID‑19 and future pandemics. This collaborative project will focus on the past by documenting experiences with other pandemics and explore changes in response over time. It will focus on the present by assessing current state of community emergency planning and risk communication. Finally, it will focus on the future by assessing community responses to different possible scenario and ideas for moving forward. We will share our outcomes with Indigenous communities and organizations across Canada, all levels of governments, and the general public so that the health interests of Indigenous people are best served now and into the future.