In a northern community in Canada, children are being evacuated and taken to medical treatment for an unknown condition that is causing ghastly rashes on their faces and bodies.
Kashechewan, a First Nation’s community in the province of Ontario, is the site of the frightening situation. The community, which is run under a Cree First Nation band government, is located near James Bay in Northern Ontario and has winter road access, but is a fly-in community the rest of the year.
The children are experiencing terrible scabs and skin conditions, which can be seen here.
According to an article in the Huffington Post, the children were being evacuated to medical help further south this week, and doctors are being sent into the area, going door-to-door to find other individuals who may be suffering from the same conditions.
Public knowledge of the extreme problem was started by photos circulating on social media like this man’s Facebook post, which were posted in an attempt to garner help and attention from outside the community.
The tragedy is being seen as part of an on-going crisis in health care in remote communities in Canada, highlighted last month when the leaders of First Nation’s communities in Ontario declared public health emergency.
Health care in Canada is federally run as a group of socialized health insurance plans that provide coverage to all Canadian citizens, and is publicly funded and administered on a provincial or territorial basis.
While care in major urban centers in the rest of Canada is cutting edge and on-par with developed nations around the world, an appalling shortage in medical supplies exists in First Nations communities. This winter, Norman Shewaybick dragged his wife’s oxygen tank over 600 miles in ice and snow in an act of protest when his wife died as her oxygen ran out in Webequi, Ontario and the community nursing station had none available to replace it.
Ongoing nightmares such as this, coupled with an epidemic of suicides in young people in First Nations communities has spurred the leaders of these areas in their call to action.
“We are in a state of shock,” Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon of the Mushkegowuk Council is quoted as saying to thestar.com, wiping away tears. “When is enough? It is sad. Waiting is not an option any more. We have to do something.”
Authorities are now looking at whether the possibility that black mold or sewage leaking into the water system could be responsible for the current outbreak in rashes.
Medical teams are also looking into whether the skin conditions are being caused by a viral infection. All angles are being considered as a cause has yet to be determined.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said in article on Huffingtonpost.ca, “It was good to hear government officials commit to getting these children out for an assessment and hopefully treatment. We also need to look at the longer term … some of the determinants of health: housing, water, and education, everything else that contributes to the health and well-being of our families.”
All children who require care will be evacuated from Kashechewan immediately.