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Health Status Of Indigenous Populations Across Asia Unknown, Putting Them At Risk, Experts Say

“The health of millions of indigenous people across Asia is at risk, experts say, as lack of recognition of their legal status hinders data collection, making their medical problems invisible in most national health surveys,” IRIN reports. “Indigenous peoples — defined by the U.N. as people with ancestral ties to a geographical region who retain ‘distinct characteristics’ from other parts of the population — rank disproportionately high in most indicators of poor health, according to the U.N. Secretariat Department of Economic and Social Affairs,” the news service adds.

“Lack of education, geographic isolation and prejudice marginalize Asia’s indigenous populations, boosting their risk for preventable sexually transmitted infections (STIs), according to [UNAIDS],” IRIN notes. For example, the news service writes, “In the Greater Mekong region, home to 95 ethnic groups in Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand, health education is often not conducted in native languages, said David Feingold, coordinator for the Bangkok-based Trafficking and HIV/AIDS Project at the U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).” The news service continues, “‘There is insufficient disaggregation of data on indigenous people’s health that could be used to advocate for specific interventions targeting their needs,’ said Anne Harmer, UNFPA’s socio-cultural technical adviser for Asia” (2/9).