Lessons from the first months of Aotearoa’s Covid-19 response identified through engagement with Iwi(1)

Mary Bennett - IIRC20
Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant loss and harm around the world, with an ongoing and serious risk to the health and wellbeing of Indigenous populations. This is true too in Aotearoa / New Zealand, where - despite low rates of infection to date - the increased transmission risk of Covid-19, the potential for poorer health outcomes from Covid-19 for Maori and the impacts on the wider determinants of health remain.

During the first wave of Aotearoa’s Covid-19 response (March to May 2020, when the country was in alert levels 3 and 4) there was significant disruption to health and disability services, education, employment and across many of the wider determinants of health. In response to this, Iwi and Māori health and disability providers made substantial efforts to ensure Māori communities were well informed, safe and cared for.

Hauora ā Iwi is the Iwi partner of Whanganui District Health Board made up of six Iwi (Whanganui, Ngā Rauru Kītahi, Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, Mōkai Pātea, Ngāti Hauiti, Ngāti Rangi). The rohe (district) is located on the western side of Aotearoa’s North Island and includes settlements in Whanganui, South Taranaki, Ruapehu and the Rangitikei.

Hauora ā Iwi commissioned a rapid review of the response across the Whanganui rohe following the official transition of the Whanganui Emergency Operations Centre from response to recovery (on 22 May 2020). The purpose of this review was to inform Hauora ā Iwi’s understanding of Covid-19 impact across the communities, its effect on the health and wellbeing across the communities and, together with the respective Iwi and WDHB, to support and drive health and disability sector action to achieve equitable outcomes for Māori, and its commitment to Māori.

The rapid review involved a document review to understand the response of both national and local government health agencies and a survey of over 100 local Iwi members to capture Māori views on the Covid-19 pandemic response to date. This presentation will outline five lessons identified through the rapid review. This includes a summary of the most difficult aspects of the Covid-19 response identified by whānau, hapū and iwi throughout the district, the critical need for iwi and Māori communities to be part of decision-making and advocating for whānau in the Covid-19 response and the need for the government (and its agencies) to honour its commitments to Māori as a partner under te Tiriti o Waitangi during a pandemic response and beyond.