Coronavirus and Other Health Risks Among Inuit

As the world community initiates response to increasing number of coronavirus outbreaks, ICC expresses concern about how our rural, remote communities are potentially at much higher risk and exposure to such epidemics due to the chronic lack of basic infrastructure, including lack of sewer and running water in many of our communities.

The spread of the coronavirus highlights the urgent need to remedy the profound infrastructure deficit in Inuit Nunaat that contributes to vulnerability and underlies the health challenges experienced by too many of our people.

Inuit communities historically experienced devastating loss of life due to lack of immunity to preventable diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, and other viruses and diseases. The lethal impacts of disease were compounded by the absence of the resources and infrastructure required to effectively prevent and respond to them. The basic conditions that contributed to vulnerability in the past continue to exist in too many of our communities today, contributing to a high prevalence of tuberculosis, respiratory infections, and greater susceptibility to other viruses and diseases.

Despite being the original inhabitants of some of the most affluent countries in the world, gaps in basic infrastructure continue to contribute to severe health risks. Overcrowding, food insecurity, lower life expectancy, and a high prevalence of tuberculosis are among the inequities experienced by our people that are linked to poor infrastructure. Many homes lack running water and a flush toilet. Many more depend on aging and deteriorating piped and haul systems. These conditions contribute to severe and multiple illnesses, including invasive pneumococcal disease that are among the highest in the world. Household overcrowding has numerous interrelated adverse impacts, from mental well-being to physical health.

ICC calls on governments to close the infrastructure gaps throughout Inuit Nunaat through major new investments in our communities, prioritizing basic infrastructure such as housing, water, and sewer. And, ensuring that this investment supports climate resilient infrastructure critical for our communities that are dealing with the most significant impacts of climate change.

This is the only way to create social and economic equity, support population health, and reduce vulnerability to virus and disease. In addition, when designing local, regional and national response and preparedness to the coronavirus and other infectious diseases, governments must acknowledge the challenges that Inuit communities face. Because of these conditions, combined with looming threats such as the coronavirus, Inuit leaders across the Arctic are concerned about the compounded threats to our basic health and well-being and cultural integrity.


The Inuit Circumpolar Council

Anchorage, Alaska

Feed and Speed the Recall of Governor Dunleavy

An op-ed by Jeff King, four time Iditarod Champion and proud Alaskan.

I trained all year to proudly participate in one of the greatest races on earth starting March 7th: the Iditarod. Unfortunately, emergency surgery will prevent me from racing for the 30th time this winter.

In the last three decades of racing, the event itself hasn’t changed much, but Alaska has. This year, when I look at my state, I see broken promises, ineptitude, and a lack of integrity. Not from the people of Alaska, but from the individual elected to lead us: Governor Mike Dunleavy. He doesn’t reflect the values we hold dear. Any successful musher isn’t afraid to switch out a team lead when they’re doing a poor job. We can and must make a switch in Alaska’s leadership and successfully remove Governor Dunleavy from office.

When mentoring younger mushers, I teach them they must, first and foremost, feed their team. In order to get food drops along the trail and in every doglot, sponsorships are needed. To get to the finish line—a full recall of Mr. Dunleavy—the recall campaign needs your sponsorship in the form of a signature on one of the hundreds of recall petitions circulating throughout the state. We need 71,252 signatures to get the recall on the ballot. Make one of them yours.

Here is other crucial advice I give new mushers, which can also apply to the recall:

●Manage your speed. This campaign is a marathon, not a sprint.

●Be calm and assertive. Encourage others to support the recall.

●Be relentless about what is important to you. Donate to the effort, sign a petition, vote.

It’s time we hold Governor Dunleavy accountable. If governing was like racing, he’d have scratched the first month. You can’t just buy a mushing championship; Dunleavy’s election was bought by a brother in Texas. He hired an outsider, Donna Arduin, to go after Alaskans we hold dear in pioneer homes, our schools, universities, and folks on ferry routes.

No-bid contracts smell like a doglot in springtime. He’s taken the easy way out on every occasion, striking off lines in a budget instead of finding solutions. Whether it’s a lack of empathy or intellect doesn’t matter to me. It’s just poor leadership.

It’s time for a new leader in the long, tough race that is Alaska’s future. Life threw me a curve ball this week, but my plan was that when I hit the trail this Saturday, I would be dedicating my 30th run to the recall.

I’m asking you to support both of us by joining the recall effort. Sign a petition as soon as possible and, when the time comes, vote to remove Governor Dunleavy from office.

One last piece of advice: know what’s right for you, then do what’s in your heart and be proud. We only have one shot.

Jeff King

Healy, Alaska

HB 62

The state should put in HB 62. HB 62 is the bill that says when a person calls in another person to the authorities and says that person has guns and you think that person could be a danger to society, then the authorities come in and takes those guns away.

When my friends and I go to buy drugs, our drug dealer has guns in his house. That means that we cannot get drugs for free. We have to pay for them. We do not like that. We want to get them for free. The way we can get drugs for free is to put in HB 62. With HB 62 in play, we can then call state authorities and turn in our drug dealer for having guns. The authorities will then be able to confiscate those guns. Once those guns are gone, we will then be able to go over to our drug dealer’s house and help ourselves with all the drugs we want. We will then be able to get drugs for free. That we like. So give drug users a break and put in HB 62.

John Suter

Chugiak, AK

A letter to Governor Dunleavy and Commissioner MacKinnon regarding lack of ferry service

We write today with grave concerns over your response to a growing crisis affecting all Alaskans: the lack of ferry service.

Since this past September, Alaskan communities have been cut off from essential goods and services, healthcare, and the rest of the state. Make no mistake, this emergency is having very negative impacts on the health and safety of our residents.

Further compounding the problem, 10 of 12 State ferries are currently inoperable. During last Thursday’s trip to Vigor’s Ketchikan Shipyard by the House Transportation Committee Chair, Rep. Louise Stutes, it became apparent that poor maintenance, management, and communication by AMHS is, in large part, responsible for the current state of disrepair. The legislature cannot fund maintenance requests that are never brought forward, nor can repair dollars be used effectively without good communication and planning. Regardless of the causes, the mothball status of our fleet is unacceptable to House Leadership just as it is to the residents of Alaska.

When the legislature passed a $5 million increase to AMHS operations during the last special session, you vetoed the funding, calling it “premature.” Further, the budget you recently submitted maintains and validates current AMHS service levels, proposing to again isolate communities.

Finally, significant capital investments are needed to restore our fleet to operational status. Where is the request for more operational dollars? Where are the estimates and funding requests for the needed capital dollars?

We applaud your swift action to address the coronavirus in Alaska and implore you to demonstrate the same leadership for our ferry system by instituting a paradigm shift within AMHS management, producing a funding request to restore our fleet, and sparing further operational increases from a veto.

Alaska House Majority

Juneau, AK

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