On 18 July a delegation from the ‘Platform’ of those affected by metal poisoning arrived at the Ministry of Health to present their case for a more adequate health policy to deal with victims’ situation. The delegates come from Pasco, Espinar (Cusco), La Oroya (Junín), San Mateo (Lima), Bambamarca (Cajamarca), and Cuninico (Loreto), six of the nine regions which form the lobby.

The group, the ‘Plataforma de Afectados por Metales Tóxicos’, presented a document which was created, they say, ‘in a participatory manner’ in the nine regions.

The evidence for the problem is convincing. An Amnesty report in September 2017 summarises the evidence. In 2016, a study by Peru’s own Ministry of Health revealed that more than half of people in the community of Cuninico had abnormal levels of mercury in their blood. Alarming levels of cadmium and lead were also detected in people, including children. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to mercury and lead can cause extremely serious health problems and irreversible damage to foetal development.

The Amnesty report concludes that “the State’s response has been utterly inadequate. Despite the fact that the government declared a public health emergency in the area in 2017, no real steps have yet been taken to provide health care to the communities and address the water contamination, including investigating the source of the contamination.”

The Ministry has now committed to the group meeting the Minister, and to the ‘evaluation’ of the group’s proposal for a health policy with human and environmental components to deal with the needs of the affected population. The Ministry says it will then publish a policy proposal and hold a technical discussion with representatives of the Platform.