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Want to stay up to date? Visit us on our website. http://www.laislafoundation.org
With the world’s eye on Chichigalpa, Nicaragua after a round of media visits over the course of 2012, the complicated circumstances surrounding the basics of the CKDu issue do not fit easily into a nightly news program. OFF AIR explores a deeper and darker reality of intimidation that those affected by the disease face every day.
Intimidation of communities affected by the CKDu epidemic from Nicaraguan Sugar Estates Limited (NSEL), owners of Ingenio San Antonio (ISA) is affecting medical research in the affected communities. Their brand of intimidation involves threatening workers and surviving widows, who earn between 100-250 US dollars a month, with losing their employment and/or food and medical stipends they were given.
These stipends were given via an International Finance Corporation (IFC) arbitration process that was supposed to resolve a complaint between a community organization, ASOCHIVIDA, and NSEL, which was the recipient of a multimillion-dollar loan from the IFC.
What has happened instead is that the community organization, ASOCHIVIDA, has been pressured by the sugarcane company into intimidating their own members by using the stipends as leverage over their membership. For talking to the press or working with independent researchers, like La Isla Foundation, families desperate for whatever help they can get have had their food stipends, jobs, and medical supplies threatened or taken away.
This has damaged our research efforts as community members have become too scared to participate in the studies that will help us identify the cause. Tierra Unida Films and LIF are explaining the complicated situation and asking the company to collaborate instead of prevent meaningful, independently funded and peer-reviewed research. Tragically, one of the men in the video has already passed away, a stark reminder of the urgent need to find the cause.
NSEL has also pressured other sugar producers in Nicaragua not to collaborate with independent researchers via their powerful lobby in the Nicaraguan Sugar Producers Association. This unfortunate turn of events occurs as La Isla Foundation and its research partners have a study protocol ready and funded that may find the cause of the disease. We only require the collaboration of a sugarcane company in Nicaragua to carry out research that is likely to identify a principal cause of the epidemic. This research must coincide with the beginning of the cane harvest in two weeks and will likely need to be suspended until next year because of NSEL’s actions.
Write NSEL (nicaraguasugar.com/es/contactenos/) to tell them that you think they should collaborate with LIF and our research partners. That research should be delayed and thousands of more men put at risk due to special interests is unconscionable.
Learn more about the CKDu issue at laislafoundation.org and be part of the solution.
Learn more about Tierra Unida Films and our work on this issue at tierraunidafilms.org
Quein es tu equipo? We’re ordering soccer jerseys for the men’s team in La Isla and though y’all might be interested in one, too. You can order one by paying $21.20 + shipping through PayPal and emailing firstname.lastname@example.org what size and color you want, with a name and number for the back.
La Isla Foundation has initiated a welding course to train young men from the affected communities of Guanacastal Sur. The program, in its first semester, runs Monday through Friday from 8:00- 11:00am for 3 months and has five students. When they graduate, the students will be able to weld all basic materials, use multiple machines and tools, preparing them for an entry level welding job in a factory or for a small company. Help teach these boys to weld and donate here:http://www.crowdrise.com/teachtheboysoflaisla
Our colleagues at CPI and NPR just came out with a great piece on the worldwide CKDu epidemic.
"Solo la Caña"
The rainy season brings a halt to the cutting season between May and November, but veteran sugarcane workers find work in other jobs as sugarcane production never rests. They work in “cleaning,” or weeding the cane fields, spraying chemical herbicides and pesticides, working security of fields, warehouses and factories, and maintaining irrigation infrastructure, preparing for the next cutting season which will begin when the rains subside and the sun settles back into its dominance for another six months. This rainy season saw a thorough campaign of health exams in the affected community of Guanacastal de Sur, of which La Isla is part, carried out by La Isla Foundation and CISTA health officials with medical students from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York and UNAN-Leon. Study fatigue can set in among community members who, year after year, participate in medical exams while family members and friends perish of the very disease being studied. This round of exams however saw a much more upbeat response by the community as a year of community work and education on the health studies built stronger relationships between members of the affected communities and the researchers. The majority of that community work was carried out by young people from Nicaragua, the U.S. and Europe working tirelessly for months carrying out surveys, holding educational seminars, and sharing conversation over meals with people in the communities. All this success however is matched by the fact that over 60% of men in these communities have CKD and continuing studies only confirm that rate with each new generation taking to the fields. LIF and CISTA have developed a protocol for a causality study to test the interaction of sugar, specifically fructose, with chronic dehydration, that they plan on implementing in a study this November with the beginning of the cutting season. The rain will cease, the cane will burn, will this be the year that we find the cause? Be part of the solution.
“I recycle to save my planet!” Reforestation and Environmental Education Project 2012
High school students from Chichigalpa carry banners through the streets as a marching band follows behind pounding drums and blaring trumpets under the blazing Chichigalpa sun. The event, which was to include presentations by the local alcaldia or mayor’s office, MINED, MARENA, INAFOR and MINSA, was sponsored by Ingenio San Antonio and Grupo Pellas as the insignias on the left of the banner imply.
Environmental officials, with the local government, display more than 70 different seeds of trees and plants that are found in protected areas around Chichigalpa. “One of the purposes of this government is to incentivize the youth, the citizens of this municipality, [to protect] our environment.” Forests are claimed for land expansion of sugarcane fields to meet market demand for ethanol and raw sugar production.
Inet Reyes, the Environmental Coordinator for Ingenio San Antonio Liquor Company educates local school children on the company’s environmental initiatives. According to ISA those include: environmental education, reforestation campaigns, recycling, biological pest/disease control, efficient use of water, “clean energy”, which includes a eucalyptus plantation for wood, efficient irrigation, and reduction of emissions.
Former sugar cane workers who have Chronic Renal Insufficiency watch as a youth spray paints a banner which reads, “Where is the environmental responsibility of ISA with so many sick with IRC (Chronic Renal Insufficiency) 4,000 dead 4,800 sick with IRC (We want the cause of IRC) GTAIRC” (Grupo de Trabajadores Afectados por IRC) (Group of Workers Affected by CRI).
MINSA, the Nicaraguan government Health Ministry was absent at the environmental fair.
Be part of the solution. Even $5 a month makes a difference.
During our demographic survey, I was interviewing a woman born in the same month as I am. We are both 27.
I am young.
I am finishing up my masters degree, I am orienting myself on the job-market, I am not in a relationship yet, I am free and my future looks bright.
She is old.
The last time she attended classes was 20 years ago. Now, the only reason why she steps into a classroom is to talk to the teacher of her kids, she has three. Her husband is diagnosed with CKD, and is not able to work anymore. He receives a small pension, which is not enough to support the family. She has her work cut out for her. She works in the fields to cut cane to support her children. Besides she needs to prepare for widowhood. She is already showing early sighs that her kidneys are affected too.
This is heartbreaking. The most heartbreaking part of this story is that we believe that this is preventable. We believe that the intense working conditions in the soaring heat are the cause of the kidney disease, and we are gathering evidence to proof this hypothesis. The end goal is not scientific knowledge, the end goal is a policy change that will prevent the agricultural workers from getting sick.
And this is why I work in Public Health.
-Dorien, Public Health Intern
Get that last baseball fix for the season this weekend Léon vs. Rivas, Friday at 6, Saturday at 4, come and cheer on the Leones with us!
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A couple of weeks ago, several La Isla interns attended Feria Ambiental, a march and fair hosted by young environmentalists, representatives from the sustainability department of the Ingenio with their SER campaign (Sugar, Energy, Rum), and local schools.
After the march to Plaza Parque Ruben Darío, young students mingled around the fair engaging with the information provided at each station. At our booth we presented the results of past studies including our Prevalence Study and Knowledge Attitude and Practices Research outcomes, which indicate dehydration, working conditions, and heat stroke as risk factors for the type of CKD prevalent in Central America. Students were very interested to learn more about the epidemic affecting their community. Much of the information we presented was in conflict with what students learned about across the way at the Ingenio’s booth.The event was planned to continue on into the evening with a campfire by the river and even a circus! The opportunity to discuss past results helped prepare volunteers who will be assisting with the education component in our upcoming health fairs.
Before I volunteered with La Isla Foundation, I didn’t have a very good idea as to what I wanted to do with my life. However, after spending a couple months in Nicaragua, everything changed.
The night before I flew to Nicaragua, I was looking for some literature to keep myself preoccupied during my travels. My brother gave me a book to read called Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. I never could have imagined the impact this book had on my life. Mountains Beyond Mountains is about a man named Paul Farmer. He is a doctor and anthropologist who through his actions demonstrates that health is a human right for even the poorest of people.
When I stepped off the plane in Managua, I was immediately hit by culture shock. The first night I was in Leon, I cried for about an hour. I was taken aback by the living conditions that I would be subjected to for the next few months and I was unsure about how my experience in Nicaragua would end up. I shouldn’t have worried.
My obligations as a volunteer for the foundation consisted of me going to the community twice a week to teach English, do arts and crafts, and play sports with the children of La Isla. I still thoroughly enjoy Mondays and Thursdays because I get to interact with the kids.
After I finished Mountains Beyond Mountains, I became interested in the public health project that the foundation is conducting. I observed the public health team giving questionnaires to the families of the communities. This opened my eyes to how truly difficult some people’s lives are. Many of these families barely support themselves economically and deal with the burden of CKD. I want to help, but I feel almost helpless because this viscous cycle is not easily broken.
Because of my experience here in Nicaragua, and because of Mountains Beyond Mountains, I have decided to go to medical school and dedicate my life to giving medical care to those who don’t have the means of attaining it.