H1N1 Aboriginal Leaders (260 x 230)

Recently, the Manitoba Chambers participated in a meeting of Aboriginal and business leaders to discuss the threat H1N1 is posing to Manitoba’s Aboriginal communities. 

While H1N1 obviously has serious implications for all of Manitoba’s communities the numbers suggest this issue has had a particularly harsh impact on Manitoba’s Aboriginal population. Consider recent statistics regarding the incidence of H1N1: 

  • United States:  7.1 per 100,000
  • Mexico: 7.1 per 100,000
  • Canada: 6.1 per 100,000
  • Manitoba First Nations: 135 per 100,000

Manitoba’s Aboriginal communities are facing complicated challenges in relation to both incidence and treatment of H1N1. For example, key treatment and management items such as:  

  • Cough medicine
  • Tylenol
  • Anti Diarrheal medicine
  • Thermometers
  • Masks

are not covered by First Nations Inuit Health; and while these items may seem easy to acquire in urban areas, in areas that are both rural and remote they are always in limited supply. 

On June 24, the situation prompted Grand Chief Evans to request that all First Nation leaders call a state of emergency on the H1N1 pandemic.  

A press release on June 24, 2009 from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs stated:

“. . . as of June 12/09 nearly half of the confirmed cases are First Nations.  Proportionally, First Nations represent only 10% of Manitoba’s population but are experiencing H1N1 at a rate of approximately twice the generation population.  Media has reported that more than 2/3 of patients on respirators are of Aboriginal descent.  H1N1 especially attacks the younger population. 62% of Manitoba First Nations population is under 25 years of age. . .” 

Dr. Sydney Garrioch, Grand Chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc., stated: 

“Recognizing that Pandemics impact certain regions and populations for different reasons, it became obvious in the emergence of this event that our communities were vulnerable due to conditions beyond our control.  We appreciate the devotion of those involved on the policy and planning side, but given the vulnerability of our most remote and northern communities, we have no other recourse but to appeal to the corporate and broader global community for aide and assistance for a more responsive action”.

Continued Dr. Garrioch,

“When Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said ‘We are all in this together, and we will all get through this, together’  she sent a signal to the International Community that this is a time for global solidarity and that no population should be left behind without help.”   

The group of Aboriginal and business leaders will be meeting again to continue to analyze this issue and possibly develop ways the corporate and Aboriginal communities can work  together to help address this situation – particularly in preparation for flu season. 

Those interested is this issue are encouraged to post their comments below.

More information on the effect of H1H1 on some of Manitoba’s Aboriginal communities is available on the Southern Chiefs’ Organization website here.