The Coronavirus pandemic, known as COVID-19, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020. The virus has affected millions of people in nearly every country and region on the planet, including the Arctic. Inuit in Canada, and across the four circumpolar countries that constitute our homeland of Inuit Nunaat, have been severely affected by the pandemic, either by being completely shut off from the outside world, or by having cases of COVID-19 in small communities with very limited health resources compared to larger centres.
ICC’s concern from the beginning has been on how our remote communities are coping. The pandemic has refocussed political and public attention on the existing chronic lack of basic infrastructure, including overcrowded housing and lack of sewer and running water in many of our communities. In Canada, the virus reached the region of Nunavut which had been spared until November 2020. The spread of the coronavirus sheds light on the urgent need to remedy the profound infrastructure deficit in Inuit Nunaat.
This infrastructure deficit is a top concern discussed and voiced by ICC’s Circumpolar Inuit Health Steering Committee (CIHSC). Committee members have expressed concern about the potential effects on health outcomes due to this deficit. The CIHSC met with Francisco Cali Tzay, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right of Indigenous Peoples in September 2020. Steering committee members from Chukotka, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland provided updates on the COVID-19 situation in their regions along with initiatives they have undertaken to help Inuit. The Special Rapporteur noted similarities to what he had heard from other Indigenous Peoples worldwide including infrastructure deficits, need for improved healthcare access, and impacts of the pandemic on cultural values and customs. A summary report of this meeting, including regional information from committee members, can be found here.
This webpage is a repository of information on the effect COVID-19 is having on the Arctic, and how it affects Indigenous Peoples from an international perspective. We encourage everyone to seek information about COVID in their community and region from their local health authorities.
Inuit Organization websites with national and regional COVID-19 resources:
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami – National : www.itk.ca
- Inuvialuit Regional Corporation – Inuvialuit Region : www.irc.inuvialuit.com
- Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated – Nunavut: www.tunngavik.com
- Nunavut Government – Nunavut: www.gov.nu.ca
- Makivik Corporation – Nunavik: www.makivik.org
- Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services – Nunavik: nrbhss.ca/en/coronavirus
- Nunatsiavut Government – Nunatsiavut Region: www.gov.nu.ca
In Inuit Nunaat:
ICC Podcast: Minnie Grey, Chair of the ICC Circumpolar Inuit Health Steering Committee (CIHSC), and Executive Director of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS), discusses how the pandemic affected her region in Nunavik. https://www.buzzsprout.com/1171082
Anders Koch from Thematic Network on Health and Well-being in the Arctic: It is imperative to keep the coronavirus out of the region. https://www.uarctic.org/news/2020/3/anders-koch-from-tn-on-health-and-well-being-in-the-arctic-it-is-imperative-to-keep-the-coronovirus-out-of-the-region/
ICC Press Releases:
April 21, 2020 – Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic Highlights Infrastructure Gaps Across Circumpolar Regions Related to Inuit Health – Demonstrates Strength of Inuit Culture https://www.inuitcircumpolar.com/news/ongoing-coronavirus-pandemic-highlights-infrastructure-gaps-across-circumpolar-regions-related-to-inuit-health-demonstrates-strength-of-inuit-culture/
March 3, 2020 – Coronavirus and other health risks among Inuit https://www.inuitcircumpolar.com/news/coronavirus-and-other-health-risks-among-inuit/