Big Win For Indigenous Rights In Peru

By Carlos Marín, Peru Country Specialist for Amnesty USA

Indigenous people protest in Peru © Rupert Haag

It’s cause to celebrate: The indigenous peoples of Peru scored a long-overdue human rights victory earlier this month.

On September 6th, 2011, Peruvian President Humala traveled to Bagua, in the Peruvian Amazon region, to sign the Consultation with Indigenous Peoples Law, that requires government to consult with indigenous peoples before companies can begin projects like digging mines, drilling for oil or building dams. Indigenous peoples must also be consulted before Congress can approve any proposed law that could affect their rights.


Is Sierra Leone’s Free Healthcare Program for Pregnant Women and Children Working?

By Kim Lanegran, Amnesty USA Country Specialist for Sierra Leone

sierra leone mother and babyIt’s been a little over a year since the government of Sierra Leone launched its groundbreaking free healthcare program for children and pregnant women.

While we’re thrilled about the good news — more women now receive pre and post-natal health care, over 39,000 women delivered their babies in health care facilities, and many lives have been saved — there is still a lot to be done.

Amnesty International’s new report on the Free Health Policy finds that free adequate care is simply not being delivered.


UN Says Shell Failed to Clean Up Niger Delta Oil Spills

Shell's systemic failure to address oil spills for many years is addressed in the report © Kadir van Lohuizen/NOOR

The Niger Delta has been suffering for decades from the devastating impact of oil pollution – damaging people’s health, livelihoods and access to food and water.

Today, an independent United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report lays bare how oil pollution in the Niger Delta has destroyed the environment and the lives of people living in poverty. It’s time for the oil industry and the Nigerian government to Wake Up and Clean Up!

In 2008, two major oil spills occurred at Bodo Creek in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta. The oil poured into the swamp and creek for weeks. Almost three years on, the pollution has not been cleaned up.


What Is Girls' Education Without Human Rights?

Afghan girls at school

© UNHCR / Lana Slezic /GlobalAware

Education, especially girls’ education, is a no-brainer, right? Evidence shows that even a basic, primary education, has a range of positive impacts:

  • Children of educated mothers are twice as likely to go to school as those raised by mothers with no education. They are also 40% less likely to die in childhood.

Toxic Red Mud Doesn't Seem To Improve Livelihoods in India

The Indian state of Orissa is where the Vedanta Aluminum Company (Indian-based subsidiary of a UK multi-national) runs a refinery in Lanjigarh. This refinery is home to a nearly overflowing 92 billion liter (24 million gallon) pond of rather innocent sounding red mud. Already this year, video shot by local residents show the walls of the pond being breached and streets being flooded.  Compared to what is to come, the leaks have been relatively small.

When the monsoons come however, over 4,000 families in 12 villages will be threatened.

And red mud is not as innocent as it sounds. It is the leftovers of the aluminum refining process that includes highly toxic alkaline chemicals and radioactive materials. When the pond overflows its walls, red mud will contaminate drinking water, farmland, and homes, leaving environmental devastation in its wake and threatening the health and lives of thousands of people. This may sound familiar. Just last year a red mud spill in Hungary did the exact same thing.


New Immigration Legislation Would Divide and Devastate Families

In 1996, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), a draconian piece of legislation that stripped immigration judges of the ability to determine whether a person should be allowed to remain, and permitted the indefinite detention of immigrants whose governments refused to issue travel documents.

The Supreme Court struck indefinite detention down as an affront to liberty in Zadvydas v. Davis stating, “Freedom from imprisonment – from government custody, detention, or other forms of physical restraint – lies at the heart of the liberty [the due process] clause protects.”


First Year of Sierra Leone’s Free Care Policy

By Kim Lanegran, Sierra Leone Country Specialist

Pregnant women at a maternity waiting house in Sierra Leone © AI

On April 27th, Sierra Leoneans celebrated two important anniversaries: 50 years of independence from Great Britain; one year of  free health care to children under five and pregnant and lactating women.

Since independence, Sierra Leone has struggled from crushing poverty, human rights atrocities and a decade of horrible civil war.  When the war ended in 2002, Sierra Leone faced many challenges, not the least of which was that it was among the very worst countries in the world to be a pregnant woman or a child.

Amnesty International played a pivotal role drawing attention to the human costs of inadequate maternal health care in Sierra Leone and helped Sierra Leoneans demand reforms from their government.  Amnesty’s work emphasizing that maternal health is a human right and that other human rights abuses, such as gender discrimination, exacerbate the failure of health care delivery was crucial.

This work continues in Sierra Leone, Africa and throughout the world. Join us in shining a light on maternal health this Mother’s Day.