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Indigenous people and the COVID-19 pandemic: the tip of an iceberg of social and economic inequities
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  1. Ahmed Goha1,2,
  2. Kenechukwu Mezue2,3,
  3. Paul Edwards2,
  4. Kristofer Madu2,4,
  5. Dainia Baugh2,
  6. Edwin E Tulloch-Reid2,
  7. Felix Nunura2,
  8. Chyke A Doubeni5,
  9. Ernest Madu2
  1. 1Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya
  2. 2Heart Institute of the Caribbean and HIC Heart Hospital, Kingston, Jamaica
  3. 3Dept of Hospital Medicine, Altru Health System, Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA
  4. 4School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, Washington, USA
  5. 5Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  1. Correspondence to Ahmed Goha, 3rd Parklands Avenue, Nairobi, Kenya; dr_goha{at}hotmail.com

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The outbreak of the novel COVID-19 that began in Wuhan, China, killed a Yanomami (an Amazonian tribe) adolescent on 9 April 2020, presumed to have been contracted from gold miners. Although the strong influence of environmental conditions such as place of residence and socioeconomic status on health or illness is irrefutable, scant attention is paid to the interconnectedness of people and how conditions that affect one group ultimately affect everyone globally. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder or wake-up call of how a more equitable distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels benefits all. Even though indigenous peoples and other socioeconomically disadvantaged communities will likely bear the brunt of the pandemic, no one will be spared its pervasive health, social, economic and political consequences.

Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups who are the original or earliest known inhabitants of a particular geographic area. They are a heterogeneous group with thousands of culturally distinct communities, and numbers approximating 370 million in over 90 countries.1 Indigenous peoples comprise about 2% of the US population (6.8 million), 5% of the Canada’s population (1.7 million), 3% of the Australia’s population (>750 000) and there are about 32 million in South America, the majority in Peru.

The epidemiological and social-ecological models are useful for understanding the uneven and disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on indigenous populations. The pandemic …

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