More than half of all Peruvians—and nearly 80 percent of Indigenous Peoples and those of African descent—live in poverty. Peru has the third highest child malnutrition rate and one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in Latin America. Sixty-two percent of children live in poverty and 25 percent of Peruvians lack access to healthcare.
Peruvians are still reeling from 10 years of repressive rule by Alberto Fujimori, whose harsh "anti-terrorism" laws led to the disappearances, rape, assassinations, and arbitrary imprisonment of thousands of human rights activists and others citizens.
In 2003, Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission reported that over 69,000 people were killed between 1980-2000 during the country's violent conflict between the military, paramilitaries, and leftist guerillas. At least another 4,000 disappeared, and over 600,000 were displaced from their homes. Seventy-five percent of the victims were Indigenous and over 40 percent of the deaths took place in Peru's mainly rural Department of Ayacucho, where MADRE works. The Commission recommended collective and individual reparations in health, education, legal assistance, and economic compensation to those who were affected by the war. Yet there is little political will to allocate the resources needed to implement reparations.
Indigenous Peoples in Ayacucho
In the Department of Ayacucho, where the majority of the population is Indigenous, people struggle to survive as small farmers in a region in which only three percent of the land is arable. Lack of basic health and education services pose serious threats to women's health. Women's sexual and reproductive health indicators starkly illustrate the unmet needs in the region: maternal mortality looms at 185 deaths per 100,000 live births and five women die every day due to pregnancy-related complications. In Ayacucho, there is one doctor, two nurses, and eight hospital beds for every 100,000 people. Poverty rates are almost twice the national average and over 60 percent of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. Extreme poverty and ongoing political violence drive many rural people to migrate to the cities, where they are cut off from the cultural and familial support systems of their communities.
Afro-Peruvians make up about ten percent of Peru's population of 27 million. Like other people of African descent, they face racism, discrimination, and marginalization that prevent them from accessing descent jobs and critical services such as healthcare and education. As a result, Afro-Peruvians suffer from higher rates of poverty, maternal mortality, and illiteracy. Afro-Peruvian women, who experience both gender and racial discrimination, confront even greater barriers to employment, education, and healthcare.
In rural areas, Afro-Peruvian farmers and their families have been increasingly forced off their land by large agribusinesses. While their families struggle to survive, Afro-Peruvian youth migrate to urban areas in search of work and better wages. Already, the majority of Afro-Peruvians (seventy-three percent) live in Lima, Peru's capital city.
US Foreign Policy and Corporate Might
US-based and other multi-national corporations have invested nearly two billion dollars in the Camisea Gas Project to extract gas from the Amazon and construct a cross-country pipeline through Indigenous lands. The project threatens the health and food security of Indigenous Peoples and has already caused serious environmental destruction of Peru's rainforests. Two US corporations with close ties to the Bush Administration, Hunt Oil (a major Bush contributor) and Kellogg, Brown, and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton (whose former CEO, Dick Cheney, still receives a million dollars a year in deferred retirement benefits) stand to profit from the project.