Advertisement

UBC student’s project translates COVID-19 information to world’s Indigenous languages

Click to play video 'UBC student helps Indigenous people around the world keep up to date with COVID-19' UBC student helps Indigenous people around the world keep up to date with COVID-19
UBC student helps Indigenous people around the world keep up to date with COVID-19 – Jan 7, 2021

A UBC medical student has joined forces with colleagues in Toronto and the U.S. to help ensure Indigenous people around the world can access COVID-19 information in their own languages.

The project, dubbed Translations 4 Our Nations, involves translation of up-to-date public health information about the virus into more than 40 Indigenous languages around the world, with the help of 120 Indigenous translators.

Read more: Vaccine rollout picks up speed in First Nations across Canada

The project came together UBC’s Sukhmeet Singh Sachal connected online with Harvard Medical’s Victor Carmen and public health graduate students Sterling Stutz and Thilaxcy Yohatasan at the University of Toronto.

The initiative came about amid concerns that the pandemic was disproportionately affecting the world’s Indigenous populations.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canadian officials discuss vaccine distribution to Indigenous communities' Coronavirus: Canadian officials discuss vaccine distribution to Indigenous communities
Coronavirus: Canadian officials discuss vaccine distribution to Indigenous communities – Dec 16, 2020

“You’ve got to wonder, why is that happening? A lot of times we know there is systemic barriers in place, there’s inequities in the health-care system that are causing these issues in a lot of indigenous communities,” Sachal told Global News.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“Language is one that is so important that I think is often overlooked.”

It’s not the first initiative Sukhmeet Singh Sachal has worked on to get culturally relevant information about the virus into people’s hands.

Read more: Indigenous leaders flag treaty obligation for COVID-19 vaccine delivery

He’s also spearheaded a project built around getting COVID-19 information to the Lower Mainland’s South Asian population, through the translation of health messaging.

Story continues below advertisement

Both initiatives are focused on the core public health messages best positioned to slow the spread of COVID-19: masks, social distancing and hand hygiene.

Carmen, who is from the Dakota and Yaqui nations, said when it comes to Indigenous peoples, public health messaging often overlooks the day to day reality on the ground.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Conservatives slam alleged lack of data on Indigenous-specific outbreaks' Coronavirus: Conservatives slam alleged lack of data on Indigenous-specific outbreaks
Coronavirus: Conservatives slam alleged lack of data on Indigenous-specific outbreaks – Nov 23, 2020

“For instance, hand washing,” he said. “A lot of Indigenous communities didn’t have access to clean water, so integrating these realities that Indigenous communities were facing into the COVID-19 information was incredibly important.”

Read more: Coronavirus cases rising at alarming rate in Indigenous communities

The information can be downloaded virtually, or printed out and turned into posters.

Sachal and the team are still recruiting translators and adding languages, and are planning to include translated information about vaccines.

Story continues below advertisement

With files from Linda Aylesworth