AUSTIN, Texas — Native to northern Canada, the Nunavut aboriginal people make up about 85.9% of the population according to a 2016 census. When compared to surrounding indigenous populations, Nunavut has the highest rate of indigenous low-income households with 22.1% of the population living below the poverty line in Canada. The Nunavut face a harsh life in rural territories with little accommodation.
According to 2017 and 2018 statistics, 42.7% of Nunavut children and 62.4% of adults face food insecurity. Due to the ruralness of the community, acquiring food from conventional grocery markets is difficult and not an option for many citizens. Traditionally, the Nunavut community relies on hunting for food. With the rising cost of hunting and changes in climate, this community practice becomes less accessible to many citizens. Younger generations are more likely to not participate in harvesting which prevents the transfer of cultural practices to other generations and limits the “access to traditional foods.” Additionally, it is getting difficult to provide for complete households and avoid household crowding due to a population increase.
Limited Health Care
With the Nunavut people facing food insecurity, many do not receive the nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle which causes many to fall ill. Due to the long distances between the Nunavut and urban areas, access to health care has become limited in the community. Transporting medicine to cold, rural areas is difficult and traveling is not an option for many citizens. According to a 2018 article, more than 60% of Nunavut people are smokers, which makes the population more susceptible to respiratory issues including lung cancer, respiratory infections, tuberculosis and diabetes. Without proper access to medical facilities and treatment, the Nunavut experience a lower life expectancy than the national average.
The Bright Side
With struggle, heroes tend to arise as many NGOs have taken on the task to help the Nunavut people. The Arctic Children and Youth Foundation (ACYF) aim to help the children in the Nunavut region “in terms of education, opportunities, health and well being.” Since 2011, the ACYF has educated the Nunavut population on the roots and causes of asthma, sent youth to mental health programs while funding swimming and yoga lessons. In 2017, the ACYF was able to help more than 140 Nunavut children with programs to aid in their development. In 2019, the organization provided therapy and counseling to the elderly population to address addiction, trauma and abuse in their lives.
Furthermore, the Nunavut Food Security Coalition (NFSC) is an organization that addresses food insecurity among the Nunavut people. Most recently, the organization provided 25 different communities with a community feast. The NFSC partnered up with the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics, members of the Niqittiavak Committee and Government Liaison Officers during 2014 to gather information on food insecurity by conducting surveys in all Nunavut communities. This organization targets all 25 different communities within the Nunavut region, aiming to stop food insecurity in its tracks by collecting data and providing food for the public.
A Look Ahead
The Nunavut people face incredible hardship. Living in rural communities, access to basic needs is not always an easy task. However, with public discussion of the communities’ struggles along with placing nationwide policies to help, the situation of the Nunavut people can change for the better.
– Kler Teran