Thursday, July 07, 2016

Perils of agriculture in El Salvador

Two recent articles highlight some of the health risks faced by workers in agriculture in El Salvador.

One source of death an injury is pesticide use in Salvadoran agriculture.   According to a report in La Prensa Grafica, El Salvador's ministry of health estimates there have been 831 deaths and 7,982 poisonings of farm workers just in the five years from 2011 through 2015.   The ministry urged the country's legislators to ban a list of 53 agro-chemicals, a request which has been stalled in the National Assembly for years.   The executive branch of the government has restricted 36 of the chemicals, but a ban needs to be placed into law.   The ban is opposed by El Salvador's farm sector.  Even with the restrictions on 36 chemicals, 115 rural workers died and 1114 were poisoned during 2015.

Another article comes from alJazeera, titled Murder and malady: El Salvador's sugarcane workers, The article looks at the incredibly tough lives of El Salvador's sugar cane cutters, and, in particular, their risk of chronic kidney disease.  Here is an excerpt:
Ermando de Jesus Hernandez, a 39-year-old father of three, swings his sharpened machete and another row of sugarcane falls to the ground with a loud thud. Between the tall stalks, small groups of mostly male sugarcane cutters appear and after a polite "Buenos Dias" they disappear again. By the end of the day, Hernandez's white long-sleeved cotton T-shirt and jeans will be covered with black ash and sweat. The sugarcane will be weighed and Hernandez paid accordingly - usually between $3 and $4 a day.
Hernandez first picked up a machete as a 14-year-old and has worked on and off in the fields, spending 12 years in total cutting sugarcane. 
In the past year, however, the volume he cuts has decreased. He rests more than his fellow workers. His hands hurt, his legs are slow. Hernandez is one of the thousands of men suffering from CKDu. 
When the team of researchers arrives, he lines up for the barrage of tests which includes blood, urine, blood pressure, weight and a qualitative questionnaire. He hopes that the news won't be bad, or, more accurately, that it won't be worse and reveal that his kidney function has further deteriorated. 
He knows all too well how the disease kills. He has seen it take the lives of his father and younger brother, who was only 23 when he died. Now, another brother aged only 25 has fallen seriously ill. Bed-bound, he is cared for around the clock by their mother.
Read the rest of the article here.