Project Update: Napo River, Peru

Todd Fanter, Social Media Coordinator Image 4

Along the Napo River in the Peruvian Amazon, a long and checkered historical narrative of colonization and resource extraction looms over present day life of the region’s largely indigenous community. According to a 2012 Peruvian Government report, dangerous levels of heavy metals, including methyl mercury, are in certain zones of the Napo River.

The potential for damage to the health of the Napo River residents, who rely on the Napo River and its fish, is real. As such, Compassionate Eye Foundation is proud to support the UBC Division of Global Health (GHI) in its partnership with the Santa Clotilde Health Center (SCHC) to address the community’s concerns about possible methyl mercury contamination in commonly consumed fish.

Led by director Dr. Videsh Kapoor of the UBC - GHI, the study aims to improve the health, well-being, and safety of communities served by the SCHC through a three-phase plan. The first two phases have been completed, with the first consisting of UBC medical students surveying approximately 200 Napo River community members to get a sense of their consumption patterns. The second phase involved catching and then testing fish for dangerous levels of methyl mercury.

According to Erick Carreras, the findings of phase two have been encouraging. All but three out of 19 fish sampled can be eaten without concern about methyl mercury poisoning of any kind. This has made the upcoming final phase – educational workshops detailing risk mitigation in fish selection and general nutritional information – less of a hurdle than if a large number of the sampled fish tested positive for methyl mercury.

SCHC workers, along with UBC medical students and residents, are currently in the process of creating culturally appropriate education materials for the educational workshops. Between November 5, 2014 and March 31, 2015 this group will deliver multiple workshops to communities along the Napo River, representing the culmination of the 26-month long project that will hopefully result in a more nutritionally informed Naporuna populace.

Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project or follow along official UBC project blog!