Partners in La Oroya Join Presidential Commission on Environmental Health

By Jed Koball | Mission Co-worker Peru

Yoland Zurita and Conrado Olivera explain the widespread impacts of mining contamination in the region surrounding La Oroya, Peru. Photo by Jed Koball.

In the midst of a pandemic lockdown in Peru, Joining Hands partners continued their advocacy work online and gained a significant victory in the fight for environmental health justice in La Oroya.

By Supreme Decree 034-2020 PCM, the Prime Minister of Peru declared in July the formation of the Cabinet level Multi-Sector Commission to Address Health for Peoples Affected by Toxic Metals Poisoning. The commission is formed by 14 Vice-Ministers of government, the President of the Association of Regional Governors, and two representatives of the National Platform of People Affected by Toxic Metals (NPPATM) – a civil society body formed by representatives of eleven of the most impacted communities from mining contamination across Peru.

The Red Uniendo Manos Peru was instrumental in organizing the NPPATM over the past several years. Yolanda Zurita, a resident of La Oroya and current president of the NPPATM will serve on the Multi-Sector Commission, and she will be advised by Conrado Olivera, Director of Red Uniendo Manos Peru. The formation of this commission has been a primary goal of the NPPATM and the Red Uniendo Manos Peru in its effort to obtain specialized health care and environmental remediation in La Oroya, Peru and throughout the country.

La Oroya, Peru is considered one of the ten most contaminated cities in the world due to contamination from a metallurgical smelter that emitted up to 1000 tons of toxic emissions into the environment each day, leaving ninety-nine percent of the children with extreme levels of led in their blood and nearly 1000 square miles of land contaminated up to four inches deep.

The purpose of the commission is to evaluate the intersection of issues that impact the health of people in relation to environmental contamination from the mining industry and to propose a framework for a government sponsored health care response.

The Red Uniendo Manos Peru has been addressing this work at the regional level of the government in Junín, where La Oroya is located, for nearly a decade and is now recognized nationally for its depth of understanding not only of the health impacts of contamination from the mining industry but the integrated work of different areas of government and industry required to remediate and address the health problems.

The participation of Yolanda Zurita on the commission, with the council of Conrado Olivera, secures for the first time the eyes, ears and voice of communities impacted in health by mining activities at the highest levels of government in decisions that will affect their well-being. It secures a more transparent decision-making process in which the voice of the community, by way of Yolanda, will be heard, and the actions of the leadership of the different ministries represented on the commission will also be known.

The Red Uniendo Manos Peru has been accompanying the people of La Oroya in their struggle for justice since 2000.

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