Thursday, January 3, 2019

Food and Access to Water 16/20

Chapter 6-3

207. Compared to the rest of the population, indigenous peoples have greater difficulty accessing adequate food and drinking water. This is the result of the situation of poverty they tend to live in as well as a historical disregard for their rights to control over their lands and natural resources, among other factors. As was held by the Inter-American Court in the judgment of the case of Yakye Axa v. Paraguay, access to and use of ancestral lands and natural resources are closely tied to the right to food and to clean water.513 Consequently, when deprived of adequate food and water, their situation of vulnerability is considerably heightened. The current UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has noted that in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, indigenous communities face land shortages, which has lead to inadequate access to food and the highest rates of infant mortality recorded in the country.514 

208. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has expressed concern about the absence in Guatemala of a special regime to protect the territories traditionally belonging to indigenous peoples.515 He has also voiced special concern for women, given that they are the targets of discrimination based on their gender, racial, and ethnic background, situation of poverty, and residence in rural areas.516 During the working visit to Guatemala conducted by the Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the IACHR noted with concern the forced evictions of indigenous communities, which have placed them in a precarious position and caused a food crisis. In turn, the CEDAW Committee has regarded issues of access to land for indigenous women in that country as troubling, because these women may be displaced as a result of new economic development plans.517 

209. Discrimination against indigenous peoples and women, as reflected for example in violations of their rights in the labor setting and in the levels of poverty, is also a significant obstacle to the realization of the right to food.518 In this regard, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has recommended to the State of Guatemala that it combats discrimination against women, especially indigenous women, and recognizes their rights, particularly to access productive resources and ownership of these.519 

210. In Mexico, the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy has noted that indigenous persons face greater lack of access to food than the non-indigenous population.520 The UNDP reported that 38.7% of indigenous children in Mexico suffer from chronic malnutrition, while the rate for non-indigenous children is three times lower (12.5%). 521 In Guatemala, data from the National Maternal and Child Health Survey (ESMI 2008/2009) found that chronic malnutrition affecting indigenous children was almost twice as high as non-indigenous children, affecting 65.9% of indigenous children in comparison to 36.2% of non-indigenous children.522 Indigenous children in Colombia are also particularly vulnerable to violations of the right to food, as exemplified by the situation of severe malnutrition that is presented by indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, Chocó, Guaviare and Cauca, or by Wayúu children in La Guajira.523 

211. In El Salvador, many indigenous persons live in conditions of poverty, which is further compounded by the historical loss of their lands and natural resources, thus making it difficult for them to gain access to food and contributing to malnutrition.524 The CEDAW Committee has expressed its concern especially over Salvadoran indigenous women, given the persistence of the high levels of poverty and social exclusion they face, as well as the obstacles they encounter in exercising their basic social rights.525 

212. Whether it results from poverty, the loss of their ancestral territories, the pollution thereof, or other factors, indigenous peoples are disproportionately deprived of clean drinking water. In its 2009 Report on the situation of human rights in Venezuela, the IACHR noted with grave concern that nine children from the Warao indigenous peoples had died as a result of their nutritional deterioration and lack of access to drinking water.526 In Panama, the 2010 census revealed that nationwide, an average of 93.3% of all households have access to water that is suitable for human consumption, while in indigenous areas, the averages are much lower (28% in Ngäbe Buglé, 41% on Emberá, and 77% in Guna Yala, while 59%, 42%, and 94% respectively, did not have access to sanitation services). 527 Additionally, based on information provided by the State of Peru, in districts with 50% or more of the population whose first language is indigenous, 62% of households have no water and 59% have no sewage service.528 As recently as December 2015, the IACHR has granted precautionary measures in favor of the children of various Wayúu indigenous communities in Colombia, urging the State to protect the children’s rights to life and physical integrity, following reports of numerous deaths and illnesses related to contaminated water supplies. On January 26, 2017, the IACHR expanded the precautionary measures to include pregnant or lactating indigenous Wayúu women.529 

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