In line with the WE4ASIA initiative towards becoming the best university in Asia, UniKL RCMP played a significant role in organising a POST APACPH Conference Symposium entitled ‘Promoting the Health of Indigenous and Transitional Populations'.
The conference brought together scientists and researchers to promote the health of indigenous and transitional populations in the Asia Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health (APACPH)
The conference was held on Monday, 20th Oct 2014 at Kinta Riverfront Hotel, Ipoh, Perak and was officiated by YB. Dato' Dr. Mah Hang Soon Chairman of Health, Public Transport, National Integration, Non Islamic & New Villages Affairs. It was attended by 72 participants mainly from the Institutes of Higher Learning, the Health Industry and Malaysian Relief Agencies.
There are 18 Orang Asli tribes in Malaysia constituting less than one percent of the total Malaysian population that is around 150,000 people. The community is still plagued by socio-economic problems such as poverty, poor education, poor sanitation and health facilities.
Despite proactive socio-economic development programmes initiated by the Malaysian Government to upgrade the quality of life of the Orang Asli communities, they still remain poor with a current poverty rate of 51% and hard core poverty rate of 15% which far exceeds the national average of 7% for poverty and 1.5% for hardcore poverty.
Poverty exacerbates the health problems faced by these communities which include malnourishment, high incidence of infectious diseases (eg. tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria) and the perpetual problem of intestinal parasitic infections. Today, the Orang Asli remain the most unhealthy community in Malaysia
Dato' Dr Mah in his speech said, "Education is one of the essential elements for the people to stay out of poverty. However, the children of Orang Asli are lagging behind in terms of academic performance and recording a relatively high dropout rate compared to the academic performance of the nation as a whole. There are many reasons for this situation such as their remote location, social attitudes and customs, health problems and many others.
He added, "The government through the Department of Orang Asli Development, has embarked on several educational programs for the Orang Asli such as early education program, skills program for youths, socio-economic development for poverty eradication, decent homes, relocation to settlement areas and such other programs. To ensure physical health, clean water supply, supplementary food program, vector borne disease control, among others, are implemented by the Health Ministry and all of these programmes have shown some positive results."
During the international Day of Indigenous Peoples in August, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon urged everyone to recognize and celebrate the valuable and distinctive identities of indigenous peoples around the world.
Earlier, Dr Ibrahim Ibrahim Zubil Ab. Rahman, the Chairman of the organising committee, in his opening address, said the Orang Asli and other indigenous people in this country are poor, illiterate and easily exploited and victimised. The government through the Orang Asli Development Department has continuously played its role to enhance the quality of life of the Orang Asli through education, socio-economic development and social integration with the mainstream of the society.
On the other hand The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, establishes minimum standards for their survival, dignity, well being and rights. Nevertheless huge gaps remain between those ideals and the circumstances facing most of the world's indigenous peoples. This symposium is to provide a platform for many experts in this field to share experiences, ideas and explore opportunities for collaborative research to fill these gaps.
Research papers were presented by Professor Dr. Alberto Gomes, Director, Centre of Dialogue , School of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Australia on Vanishing Forests, Vanquished Peoples: The Impact of Environmental Changes on the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia; Dato' Dr. Abdul Razak Kechik, Presiden, Malaysia Relief Agency , Kuala Lumpur on Combating Poverty And Health Equity Among Indigenous People; Professor Dr. Osman Ali, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, UniKL RCMP on Innovative Approaches In Countering The Communicable And Non-Communicable Diseases Among Indigenous And Transitional Communities; Professor Dr. Abdul Karim Russ Hassan, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kuala Lumpur Royal College of Medicine Perak on Health Issues Faced by Indigenous People in Malaysia; Dr Rosemawati binti Ariffin, Ministry of Health , Kuala Lumpur on Achievement in Health Care Development Among Indigenous People in Malaysia and Associate Professor Dr. Basanta Kumar Mohanty Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kuala Lumpur Royal College of Medicine Perak on Current Status Of Development And Health Programmes for Indigenous People in State of Odisha, India
Overall the conference achieved its objective of highlighting the plight of the Orang Asli and hopefully we can see more concrete actions taken by the government as well as non-government organisations to preserve and promote the livelihood of these endangered communities.
POST APACHP committee members and the Indigenous People at Kg Pos Raya,
Simpang Pulai, Perak