In March we are joining an official Peruvian government health team to visit the Nahua, the indigenous people with whom I lived for many years deep in the headwaters of the Peruvian Amazon. Recent fatalities from an outbreak of diseases has revealed a health crisis in the village and an urgent need to understand the situation and design and implement solutions.
Although I helped the Nahua battle successfully to expel loggers from their territory, their lands are now under siege from the oil and gas industry with exploratory drilling about to begin in the pristine Serjali river valley. The project has been pushed through by Peru's authorities despite the area's protected status and despite the fact that the Nahua have still not been consulted. This has triggered a spate of conflicts between villagers and the company that remain unresolved.
In parallel with these exploratory activities, an outbreak of epidemics in the village over the last few months has resulted in several fatalities, triggering concerns for the Nahua's survival. The Nahua remain extremely vulnerable to unfamiliar illnesses as a result of their relatively recent first direct contact with the outside world in the mid 1980s. This first contact resulted in the deaths of about half the Nahua in the space of a few months from diseases such as bronchitis and flu to which they had never been exposed. If not addressed, the serious health problems in local communities that all too often accompany oil and gas exploitation in the Amazon could spell disaster for the Nahua whose population numbers only about 350.
Over the last few years I have been supporting the Nahua with the medicines they now need to address these new threats as well as helping a young Nahua man, Enrique Manerua, to complete his training to be a qualified nurse. Enrique has been working for years in a voluntary capacity as the village health promoter, administering basic treatments and emergency assistance but needs further training to allow him to meet the Nahua's increasingly complex health concerns. He has struggled to fund his own further training and approached us for assistance. Once he is qualified, Enrique will be qualified to work as a nurse in his own village providing his people with the support they need to counter these new diseases.
The upcoming visit of the government team aims to provide critical urgent treatment for the Nahua as well as conduct an investigation to understand the causes of the recent epidemics and make high level policy recommendations to ensure that Nahua health needs are effectively addressed.
To ensure this approach is sustainable it is vital that the Nahua themselves have the capacity to address their own health needs and it is with this in mind that we hope to raise enough funds to help Enrique complete his course and begin to serve his own people. Currently, Enrique is enrolled in a nursing programme in the regional capital of Pucallpa and requires funds to complete the final 2 years of his course which includes tuition fees and living costs working out roughly about £200/month or £2500 for the remainder of his course.
We do hope you will be able to help us to continue to support Enrique and his people.