OTTAWA, March 22, 2012 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) joins the world in observing World Water Day 2012. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations will host the official ceremony of UN Water World Water Day 2012 under the theme of Water and Food Security.
"This year's theme is important for First Nations as many struggle to secure adequate supplies of both safe water and nutritious foods," AFN National Chief Atleo said. "The AFN recently convened a water rights conference and First Nations are united in upholding our rights and our duty towards water. We all understand that access to fresh water is the key for safe and healthy communities and nutritious foods are essential to personal health."
The recent Government of Canada report on the condition of Canada's First Nation water and wastewater systems found that 73% of water systems were in the high and medium risk categories.
"This is a serious health threat to the health and well-being of First Nation citizens and must be addressed immediately," the National Chief said. "Our elders have instructed us that we have been given the responsibility by the Creator to protect our water sources and ensure that our water rights are protected, consistent with principles of the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples."
This year's theme of food security is a rapidly growing concern for First Nations in particular as it relates to nutritious foods and traditional healthy diets. Low incomes and low employment rates mean too many First Nations people cannot afford healthy foods, a situation compounded by the high cost of healthy foods in remote or rural communities and increasing challenges in accessing traditional foods.
The results can be seen in statistics compiled through the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey which show much higher rates of diabetes and obesity among First Nations people, and more than one-third of First Nation adults (25-54) who report being hungry but not eating due to a lack of money for food.
"First Nations understand the connection between clean drinking water, healthy foods and a healthy mind, body and spirit," National Chief Atleo said. "The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food is planning to visit Canada in early May and we are working to secure a meeting with the Rapporteur and encourage him to visit First Nation communities to understand the situation firsthand. World Water Day is an opportunity to bring attention to these problems and commit ourselves to holistic solutions. Strong First Nations will make a stronger Canada."
For further information:
Alain Garon, Assembly of First Nations Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613-2920857 or email [email protected]