Webinar | The Pandemic and Other Threats to Indigenous Peoples in the Amazonian Rainforest
Monday, October 12, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Online - Zoom

The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting the health, wellbeing, and livelihoods of over 476 million indigenous people in 90 countries. As the UN Secretary noted in early August: “Prior to the current pandemic, indigenous peoples already faced entrenched inequalities, stigmatization and discrimination.  Inadequate access to health care, clean water and sanitation increases their vulnerability…. Lapsed enforcement of environmental protection during the crisis has brought increasing encroachment on indigenous peoples’ territories by illegal miners and loggers… Realizing the rights of indigenous peoples means ensuring their inclusion and participation in COVID-19 response and recovery strategies.”  However, the lack of governmental support and the collapse of ecotourism and other income streams has placed additional pressures on indigenous communities in remote areas.

On October 12, indigenous community members, a white water kayaker and film-maker, and epidemiology, One Health/Ecohealth, global health, and anthropology experts gathered virtually for a conversation about how indigenous peoples in the Bolivian and Peruvian Amazon are responding to the COVID Pandemic and other threats to their communities. They discussed the region and its people, how COVID has changed the way that people are currently living, key challenges going forward and strategies to assist.

This webinar is of interest to students interested in global health, One Health/Ecohealth, environmental justice, and health disparities.

Watch a recording of the webinar: 


Webinar slides: 


Ruth Alipaz Cuqui was born in the indigenous river community of San José de Uchupiamonas in the Bolivian Amazon. At 12 years of age, she traveled by herself to La Paz to work as a nanny for a year. She returned to her community and then left to be the first woman in her community to attend and graduate high school. She then became the first person from her community to attend and graduate university while juggling life as a single mother and working to support her extended family, her young child, and herself. She is the founder and owner of the ecotourism business Bird Bolivia and Sadiri Lodge (http://sadirilodge.com/ ), a founding leader of women’s training at the world-famous indigenous community-owned Chalalan Ecolodge (https://chalalan.com/en/ ), and an unwavering advocate for free-flowing rivers and their integral role in the health of local communities throughout the Amazon and the world. Invited to speak multiple times at the UN, most recently Ruth participated in the United Nations Inclusive Social Development Division for Indigenous Peoples. She serves as the Coordinadora general de la Coordinadora Nacional en Defensa de Territorios Indígenas Originarios Campesinos y Áreas Protegidas de Bolivia (Contiocap) [Coordinator for the Defense of Indigenous, Native, Peasant Territories and Protected Areas].
Erika Alandia, DVM, MSc is a Bolivian veterinarian with a master's degree in Agricultural Science, Food Security, and Natural Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics from the University of Hohenheim in Germany (2003). She is the coordinator for One Health projects at Fundacion Teko Kavi and works for 15 years now in the Bolivian Amazon region. Previously, she served as a field veterinarian (2005-2008) for the Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS - Bolivia, before assuming the coordination of the WCS’s Global Health Program (2008-2013) and the coordination of the Emerging Pandemic Threat Program - PREDICT project in Bolivia (2010-2014). She supported research projects on wildlife diseases run by the University of California-Davis’ Wildlife Health Center (2016-2017) and worked for FAO in Bolivia from 2014 to 2016. Dr. Alandia is the vice-president of the Bolivian Network of Primatology - RedBolPrim, and promotes the use of natural integrative therapies for domestic animals and wildlife.  
Olivia Carter-Pokras, PhD is a Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. A health disparities researcher for four decades, Dr. Olivia Carter-Pokras has been recognized by the Governor of Maryland, Surgeon General, Assistant Secretary for Health, and Latino Caucus of the American Public Health Association for her career achievements to improve racial/ethnic data, develop health policy to address health disparities, and improve health care quality for Latinos. Dr. Carter-Pokras has led NIH funded research projects to develop cultural competency and health literacy curricula and served as Co-Investigator for a European Commission funded project to develop cultural diversity training for health professional educators. An elected fellow of the American College of Epidemiology, Dr. Carter-Pokras teaches infectious disease and chronic disease epidemiology to public health students and leads a short term study abroad course to the Bolivian Amazon (Global Health Lessons in Ecotourism and Community Health ). Together with Hayley Stuart and Anne Toomey from Pace University, she hosts a website on the environmental, social and health implications of planned mega-dams in the area. 
Carlos Castillo-Salgado, JD, MD, MPH, DrPH is a Professor of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. His many accomplishments at the  Pan American Health Organization include the development of one of the most important strategies for controlling malaria in the Americas, as well as the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization’s Regional Core Health Indicators Initiative. He has developed advanced training programs that set a gold standard for professional epidemiology worldwide and taught thousands of Latin American and Caribbean public health professionals, senior international health advisors, and academic and health leaders.
Guillermo Rodriguez Gomez is a highly skilled naturalist, fluent in four languages. He has worked with Peruvian Amazonian conversation efforts for more than 20 years as an Amazonian medicinal plant expert (shaman), medicinal plants garden curator (arborist), and herpetologist assistant (naturalist guide). He is looking to combine his knowledge of the forest and its indigenous people (his own Ocaina and Bora as well as others) with national and international efforts to conserve Peruvian natural resources and heritage. 
Michael Gurven, PhD is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Chair of Integrative Anthropological Sciences, and an Area Director of the Biodemography section of the Broom Demography Center at UCSB. He received his PhD from the University of New Mexico in 2000. His interests include (i) explaining variation in the diversity of intragroup cooperation found in small‐scale societies, (ii) the biodemography of human lifespan, aging, and the role of social structure, and (iii) indigenous health. He has conducted fieldwork in Paraguay with Ache hunter-gatherers and in Bolivia since 1999 with Tsimane and Moseten horticulturalists. Since 2002, Gurven (along with Hillard Kaplan) has co-directed the Tsimane Health and Life History Project (THLHP) to better understand how a tropical environment and subsistence lifestyle affects various aspects of health and aging, and the effects of increasing globalization on lifestyle change and chronic disease risk. The THLHP provides primary health care to over 85 Tsimane communities and helps facilitate other health needs through collaborations with local partners. 
Thomas C. Hilde PhD is a research professor in the UMD School of Public Policy and Senior Fellow in the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and the Center for Global Sustainability (CGS). His work takes a systems perspective of resource frontiers and land-use change, particularly where ground-level social-ecological dynamics meet efforts to address biodiversity loss and climate change. Trained in philosophy, he teaches courses in sustainable development, environmental ethics, and policy. His graduate field course in Indonesia (Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Java) studies complex adaptive social-ecological systems, land-use change, and sustainable development. He also directs a course in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios and Andean communities that examines the conflicts between resource extraction such as gold mining, forest conservation, and native communities, as well as economic and environmental migration. He previously taught at NYU and is a former Fulbright Scholar in Venezuela and Safra Network Fellow at Harvard.
Andrea Ottesen, PhD is the Research Area Coordinator for Metagenomics at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in the Molecular Methods and Subtyping Branch of the Division of Microbiology.  She coordinates microbiome research to contribute to the One Health nexus of human, animal and environmental health. She is also Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture at UMD. Dr. Ottesen worked for over 20 years with the late Dr. Jim Duke (USDA economic and ethnobotanist) studying medicinal plants and co-teaching Amazonian medicinal plant classes. Duke and Ottesen also co-authored several Latin American and South American medicinal plant compendiums. She leads a University of Maryland short-term study abroad program to the Peruvian Amazon on “Medicinal Plants of the Amazon.
Basilio Sahuarico Huayta was born in the village of Padre Cocha on the Nanay River in Perú. He has been guiding tourists for 28 years and he's worked for Explorama for 17. Basilio speaks Spanish, English and Cocama (the language of his parents). His major areas of expertise are plants and constellations but he generally knows a little bit about everything in the rainforest. He loves his job because he loves the natural environment. He's also a great guitar player!
Hayley Stuart, is a Spanish teacher for the international traveling whitewater kayak high school World Class Academy, who has stepped into the roles of filmmaker, film producer, international expedition planner, and river advocate. After studying abroad in Bolivia her junior year, Hayley vowed to return to the country to, in some way, tell a piece of the rapidly regressing story of its rivers. She organized a river conservation film expedition on the Tuichi with Ruth Alipaz Cuqui, the director of the Madidi National Park, Madidi National park guards, representatives from two local mining communities along the river, an adventure ecotourism guide, the owner of Sergio Ballivian Photo Tours, and three international whitewater kayakers. The stunning resulting documentary Still River, Silent Jungle will be released in the next few months: http://www.madidifilm.com/


Additional Resources

Event Type: 
Community Events, Guest Speakers, Seminars, Student Events