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10th anniversary of GRID-Arendal

23 Aug 1999 - Health of the indigenous peoples of the North - Speech by Sergey Haruchi on the 10th anniversary of GRID-Arendal

Dear Mr.Tveitdal,

Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me sincerely thank you for the invitation to the 10th anniversary of GRID-Arendal. Ten years of history in any organization is too short period, if it concerns the evaluation of the activity of established international organization especially. Meanwhile life again demonstrates that if the professionals undertake the job, if they are devoted to their ideals and believe into positive results of their noble mission, it is possible to expect real results. In this sense, in the leaders of GRID-Arendal, and personally in Svein Tveitdal our Association has found reliable business partners. We highly appreciate the friendly connection and cooperation with your organization and hope that the further broadening and strengthening of the joint work in the environment and health protection of the indigenous peoples of the northern regions.

Dear colleagues,

I appreciate the honor of being invited to this meeting and would like to use this opportunity to briefly inform you on the state of the health of indigenous peoples of the North in Russia. In my opinion, you need to know these facts for your activity more than of mere curiosity. This is even more important as the Extreme North, Siberia and Far East of the Russian Federation are the most problem-bearing territories of the state.

These problems, especially in the social life and in the field of the state of environment, arose long before the governmental crisis. Economic, political reforms and crisis of 1998 just aggravated the difficult northern territories in Russia.

During last years villages are being depopulated together with the worsening of the social and economic conditions of the life of aboriginal population. If for the non-indigenous population the perspectives of solving the problems still exists in the central areas of the country, where they are continuously evacuated, then for the indigenous population such possibility is excluded.

The population depending on its traditional aboriginal activity occurs to be in an especially complicated situation. These people are dispersed on a very extensive territories, inhabit small numbered villages, some are migrating or live a semi-nomad life-style.

In Soviet period all of them were involved into the transformations of the policy of socialist paternalism. Despite of serious mistakes, at this stage many social problems were solved, as well as issues of employment and productive work. The leadership of kolkhoses and sovkhoses ensured the centralized delivery of food, clothes, instruments and tools etc. Through years there were built the living and industrial spaces, kindergartens, medical institutions, economic, social and cultural objects.

The institutions of the health protection in the North were carrying out the necessary prophylactic, medical and urgent assistance to the indigenous peoples of the North. Medical itinerary stations played important role in the early reveal of the diseases. The most important part of their work has been the prevention of the infectious diseases. However as a result of radical economic and political reforms, carried out in Russia, during the last decade the institutional, economic and social infrastructure ensuring the life and activity of the peoples of the North has been degraded.

Reindeer herding, hunting, sea animal hunting and fishery, which form the fundamental basis of the northern ethnoses has been instantaneously deprived of the governmental support. Since then the partner relationships and self-management have been selected as a model for North peoples. Failing to fight the unbearable burdens of the transition period, many aborigines escape from the traditional activities to the cities and towns where they end by the unemployment and poverty.

As a result, the number of working indigenous peoples, beginning in 1994 decreased by 32.5 per cent in average, in some of the settlements of Republic of Buryatiya 53-56 per cent of Evenks are unemployed. The analogous situation is practically in all the regions of the Russian North.

Therefore major part of the representatives of the peoples of the North live in extreme poverty. It is necessary to memorize that the delivery of goods to the areas of the North has been disrupted, and the most necessary food stuff became unavailable, due to the high price or deficit.

In national villages the living conditions are continuously worsening. The houses are outdated and unfit, the power stations, as well as heat and water supply systems are deteriorating, there is a chronic non-delivery of energy carriers.

The network of medical and prophylactic institutions, namely the units of the primary medical and sanitary assistance, is being destroyed. In majority of the regions the itinerary medical stations are abolished, but they were the only form of the ambulance and polyclinic assistance.

As a result of all these negative changes, occurred in living conditions of the northern peoples, there is a sharp decline in their health state. The life expectancy of the peoples of the North is 20 years less than in average in Russia. In the structure of mortality reasons are the first place is occupied by accidents, malignant tumors and cardiovascular diseases.

The 75 percent of reasons for newly born indigenous babies are caused by congenital pathology: genetic or maternal diseases, causing the intrauterine cha nges with the babies. The unfavorable factors of the environment cause large number of dead births, psychic diseases and mental backwardness.

Starting in 1990 a number of born babies among indigenous peoples decreased by 69%, the mortality increased by 42% and 2-3 times encompasses the mortality of non-indigenous babies.

In the regions inhabited by peoples of the North the epidemiological situation on tuberculosis has become very acute - the number of diseases among aborigines is 2.5 times higher (in some regions it is 10 times higher) than this indicator among non-indigenous population. The alcohol addiction rate is critical and 12-15 times higher than the average index in Russia.

All this requires the urgent and effective measures in the sphere of the health service for peoples of the North. Unfortunately, from the governmental side we do not see much support or perspectives for any improvement. And the heart of the matter here is a lack of money.

Evidently, there is no understanding of the existing problems, no political will for their solution, and as a consequence, a necessary legal base. At present time Association of the peoples of the North is working on the development of the new draft concept for the health service, which we would like to propose to federal agencies. Just now we are hoping to establish a Health Center for the peoples of the North under the RAIPON, with the tasks for development of this concept and current practical assistance to the aborigines of the North in need of the practical help within medical institutions in Moscow.

Other our hopes are connected with the practical assistance due to the Project of Global Environmental Foundation "Contaminants, Food Security and Indigenous Peoples of the North". We expect that this project will be approved and implemented and we will be able to get a verified and precise information on the state of health among indigenous peoples and impact of persistent organic pollutants upon their environment. This project could reveal the hot spots for their further consideration and forming the policy for indigenous peoples revival and our practical activity.

Let me thank you again for this very warm reception and wish you the further fruitful work for the benefits of all peoples in the North and our planet. Stay healthy!

Monday 23 Aug 1999
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