Māori banding together . . .
There are now 79 confirmed COVID cases among Māori in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Māori doctors and health experts established Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, the National Māori Pandemic Group, to address the shortage of COVID-19-related planning with and for Māori. Of the C$46.8 million in government funding earmarked to mitigate COVID-19-related hardships for Māori businesses and communities, C$25 million is for health funding, C$840,000 is for advice and planning for businesses, and the remainder is for community outreach and Māori culturally-driven health initiatives.
Many communities trying to self-isolate . . .
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved the country to the highest alert level on March 25, imposing a four-week, nation-wide lockdown requiring people to stay at home. A number of Māori communities still think the government has not done enough, and that what it has done came about too slowly and could preferentially protect Pākehā (those of European descent) over Māori. Some Māori communities had already begun encouraging visitors to stay away by setting up checkpoints to discourage anyone other than residents and people working in the area to voluntarily turn back. Checkpoint attendees notify town residents about anyone entering their towns and regions despite the warnings, encouraging locals not to engage and not to offer them services.
Catalyst for ending health and societal issues . . .
According to New Zealand’s 2018 Census, 776,000 people of Māori descent account for about 16.5 per cent of the national population, and 382,000 Pacific Islanders account for another eight per cent. Like in Canada, where Indigenous people account for 4.9 per cent of the population, Indigenous people are at a higher risk to pandemics than non-Indigenous people due to underlying health and societal issues ranging from chronic diseases to discrimination and a lack of adequate health services. These factors made the Māori particularly vulnerable to the 1918-19 influenza pandemic that claimed five per cent of that population. It remains to be seen in New Zealand, as in Canada, if this crisis will help close or exacerbate the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.
- National Maori Pandemic Group: Guiding Māori through the COVID19 Pandemic 2020
- Radio New Zealand: Details of $30 million for Covid-19 Māori health funding to be released next week
- Te Ao Māori News: Ōhinemutu and Maketū locals close off villages to tourists