Defend Children's Health in Peru

by Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Defend Children's Health in Peru
Smelter with market - credit Keith Slack
Smelter with market - credit Keith Slack

In the last few months, AIDA’s work in La Oroya has been focused on accompanying the petitioners of the case alongside our partners from APRODEH. We have been reviewing and communicating with them especially in relation to their current health situation and the state of the medical care they receive.

Particularly related to the legal case, we have done follow-up actions before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). We have advanced in reviewing and responding to the briefs produced by the State on the case of La Oroya, and we sent updated letters to the IACHR requesting that they issue the full report on the merits of the case.

One of the main activities we’ve done, and one of the most rewarding ones, was an update meeting with the families from La Oroya. This call was on August 28, for a duration of two and a half hours via Zoom. It was a space to give and receive updates, exchange experiences, and overall connect and strengthen the relationships with our partners and clients.

Most of the petitioners and their families were present, as well as our partners at APRODEH and AIDA’s two co-directors. During the meeting, members of APRODEH updated us on the status of the case before the IACHR, we were informed about next steps and on key information that needs to be taken into account in the case. The petitioners also presented information on their current situation, how the overall health of the community is, and their input for the next phase of the case.

Anna Cederstav, one of our co-directors, started working on the La Oroya case before even AIDA was formed – more than 22 years ago! Many of the petitioners remembered those days and their interaction with Anna, and it was a special moment to reflect on how far we’ve come working together since we started the case. We also used the space to inform about AIDA’s leadership transition and the departure of our co-director Astrid Puentes. There was a moment to resolve questions and concerns, and for people to express their feelings and perspective on where the case is going.

For AIDA, working with and for the communities is at the center of our mission. Having the opportunity to connect with and hear from them is essential to continue our work and to build a fair and successful case to defend their right to a healthy environment.

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Children from La Oroya
Children from La Oroya

In 2017, in view of the serious national public health situation of people exposed to toxic metals, the National Platform of People Affected by Metals, Metalloids and other Toxic Chemicals was created. The platform is conformed by indigenous, peasant and native organizations and communities. The Platform also has a Technical Roundtable on Environmental and Human Health, which is made up of Non-governmental civil society institutions that defend human rights in Peru and other countries.

AIDA, as an active participant of the Technical Roundtable, worked with other members of the platform on a letter sent in April to the Rapporteurs on the Rights of the Child, the Rights of Women, and the Peruvian Relator of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In this letter we requested a general situation hearing, asking for the IACHR to grant us a space to expose the problems associated with toxic metals in Peru, which include several serious situations, including the case of La Oroya.

In the document we focused on reporting the current situation of the right to health of children affected by toxic metals due to environmental contamination caused by mining and oil extraction, highlighting that the situation requires urgent attention from the Commission.

We shared detail information and data on emblematic cases that demonstrate the serious human rights situation of children affected by toxic metals in Peru, which require the urgent need to address this problem due to the absence of an adequate response from the State. Studies conducted in different areas showed, for example, communities where 100% of the children had high concentrations of lead, and that the most affected population was children between 0 and 5 years of age, in their full growth phase; and water sources with high levels of aluminum and total petroleum hydrocarbons. And the present reality that, despite the evidence on this serious health situation of the indigenous population affected by hydrocarbon activities, the State has not made significant efforts to address this serious crisis with an approach that respects and guarantees the rights of children of indigenous peoples.

With these arguments we requested a work session with the commissioners and a thematic hearing for their 180 session to expose the situation of children. And asked the Rapporteur to:

  • Request the Peruvian government to provide a report on the protocols and medical care guidelines establishing the limits of heavy metals in the bodies of children exposed to these substances.
  • Recommend that the Peruvian State updates medical care instruments (guidelines and protocols) for children in accordance with international parameters and recommendations.
  • Urge the Peruvian State to issue a norm and/or intersectional policy of protection and special health care for children affected by heavy metals, metalloids and other toxic substances, guaranteeing the protection of the right to food, water, housing and education.

We are awaiting the response of the IACHR, and working alongside our partners, the Platform and members of the communities to prepare for the requested hearing.


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Foto: Michael Mullady
Foto: Michael Mullady

On December 3rd 2020, AIDA co-hosted a regional webinar with the Technical Roundtable on Environmental and Human Health of Peru on “Toxic Metals and Extractive Industries in Latin America: Health Impacts and Resistance from the Territories”.

During the event we counted with the participation of attendees from Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Mexico. The objective of this webinar was to document the national situation related to pollution caused by toxic metals, and specifically the case of La Oroya, highlighting the ongoing environmental contamination by heavy metals and the effects on the health of the local communities. With this event we continue to give visibility to the situation, a space for groups and communities to share similar experiences and to build regional strategies to advances in the protection of affected territories.

As part of AIDA’s ongoing advocacy efforts to support the case before international institutions, together with the Technical Committee of La Oroya, on January 7th we submitted a request to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for a national hearing. We are requesting the IACHR to address the situation of the right to health of people affected by toxic metals due to environmental contamination caused by mining and oil extraction in Peru, particularly since this situation has been aggravated in the context of COVID-19.

In our direct work with communities, we held meetings to keep them updated on the advances of the case. AIDA has stayed in closed communication with our partners and members of the community using virtual platforms. In the past moths we have held a group meeting and individual meetings with families from the affected communities.

We are awaiting the decision of the IACHR on or hearing request, and we continue our close follow up of the case before the IACHR and constant communication and collaboration with community members.

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Women have long played a fundamental role in the conservation and defense of the planet. Past and present struggles for environmental justice and the defense of animals have been, to a large extent, led by women. Yet the close relationship between women and the environment has not escaped the inequalities that characterize today’s societies. Poverty, exclusion, and inequality are intertwined with environmental degradation and the climate crisis. Women, in general, suffer these plagues in a differential and aggravated manner.

In recent months we have participated with our local partners in La Oroya on the consolidation of a report for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The report highlights the differentiated impacts on women as a result of environmental degradation caused by extractive activities in Peru.

In our work in La Oroya we are seeking that the gender focus—defined as the mechanism developed to guarantee holistically valuing the impact any action has on men, women, and those who identify between those categories—becomes a fundamental basis to making asymmetries visible, overcoming barriers of discrimination, and removing scenarios of exclusion that impede women’s ability to enjoy their right to equality. 

The gender focus, as a tool, seeks to ensure that differentiated challenges are included in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of each intervention on a political, economic, and social level. This perspective is indispensable to empowering the leadership of women, which is proving increasingly vital in the struggle for environmental justice.

In effect, the development of ecofeminist theories offers the world new and transformative alternatives to the ways of thinking that are bringing about the destruction of our environment and negatively affecting the lives of men, women, and other living things. Women are more than simply the most affected by the climate crisis, and particularly in La Oroya, the most affected by the toxic metals pollution. They are also active participants with a vital role to play in preserving nature and seeking solutions for the health of our planet.

In addition to the preparation of the report on women, we continue supporting the Platform of People Affected by Toxic Metals and the Environmental and Human Health Roundtable in Peru. We have been participating in the virtual coordination meetings, especially with regard to international issues, in order to contribute to the international advocacy and strategy of the platform's cases, focused on the La Oroya case. We have supported the consolidation and dissemination of messages on the platform’s social networks.

Finally, in response to the increased vulnerability of the communities in La Oroya due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, we are supporting the drafting and filing of a request for a country hearing before the Inter-American Court for its December session titled: "Situation of the right to health of people affected by toxic metals due to environmental contamination caused by mining and oil extraction in Peru, aggravated in the context of COVID-19”.

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There’s no doubt that we are living in strange, stressful and uncertain times. We are all – in one way or another – affected by the pandemic and coping to the best of our abilities. At AIDA, we feel deeply for everyone affected globally, while our primary concern lies with the health and safety of our team, partners, supporters and the many whom we serve in communities at risk.

The AIDA team, from the safety of our homes, continue working diligently, committed to protecting local communities and the environment across the Americas. In many ways the need for our work is greater today. Threats to remote populations and the drive to develop ecologically sensitive areas haven't stopped, and neither will we.

In the framework of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve had to adapt the way we work with the communities in La Oroya no ensure that they continue to receive the support they need.

One of the main adjustments has been around the work we are doing with the Human and Environmental Health Table group, for which we have 1) created a calendar for weekly virtual meetings, providing a space to strategize, support and assist with the follow up of activities; and 2) supported the design and implementation of a communications campaign: “reactivation without contamination” focused on addressing direct contamination by heavy metals in the region. At AIDA we have helped create materials, content and provide distribution channels for the campaign, ensuring as higher outreach as possible.

In addition to this work, here are three steps AIDA is taking to continue our legal efforts supporting the communities in La Oroya, and maintaining them engaged and connected during these critical times:

  • Diversifying our communication channels with the communities and partners: to ensure the safety of the communities and our team no onsite visits are being conducted at the moment, thus we have moved all meetings to virtual platforms. We are using a messaging application available to all participants to stay connected in a timely manner, and to share useful information on the case and providing materials related to the implementation of the right to health in the context of the current pandemic.
  • Continue to work on the legal case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: we’ve had to redistribute tasks and responsibilities to move forward with the document that will compile the requests, arguments and profs related to the case to the Commission. To achieve this, we’ve held frequent virtual coordination meetings with all participants.
  • Training cycles: we have worked with members of the Platform on people affected by heavy metals in a proposal to create a series of training cycles available to the public. These cycles should serve as educational as well as a space for reflection and strategy building. AIDA will provide the virtual platform to held these trainings, and will also design and conduct the session on international issues.

Our attorneys are closely monitoring the situation in the region, calling on governments to uphold their international obligations and ensure the pandemic isn't used as an excuse to weaken environmental and human rights protections. 

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Organization Information

Asociacion Interamericana Para La Defensa Del Ambiente (AIDA)

Location: San Francisco, CA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AIDAorg
Project Leader:
Astrid Puentes
Mexico City, Mexico
$1,613 raised of $5,000 goal
21 donations
$3,387 to go
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