August 4, 2014

The Undocumented

Cool Earth’s helping bring healthcare to the Undocumented in our Asháninka Project. 

Life’s hard when you don’t exist.

In Peru, if you don’t have a National Identity Number, you don’t officially exist. This means you can’t go to school, get healthcare or even sign an agreement.

Getting this number, or DNI as it’s called, can be complicated anywhere in Peru. If you are born in the rainforest, it can be nigh on impossible.

So despite the importance of having a DNI for both education and health, more than 40% of our Asháninka partners are so-called Undocumented. This is because the registration process doesn’t really work for rainforest people.

To become registered, you need a birth certificate and both parents must already have a DNI.  To get a birth certificate, a newborn baby must be taken to the registrar in the central village before they are 14 days old. Given this can be a two-day walk when the baby is most vulnerable, you can understand why many parents are reluctant to make the journey.

Once past childhood, getting a DNI becomes even more difficult.

A person must have a birth certificate, two witnesses with a DNI, declarations from parents and siblings, declaration of why they lack a DNI, a copy of a baptism certificate and a copy of the Communal Register that shows they’re an active member of the community.

Try getting all of these ducks in a row if you don’t speak Spanish, live in an open-sided house amongst paper eating ants where two metres of rain fall every year. You’ll often see community members that have obtained a DNI have the precious number dyed onto their traditional dress to keep it safe.

So this summer, for the first stage of Cool Earth’s Strengthening Lives campaign, we funded RENIEC (the government registrar) to travel to our Asháninka project to help register every man, woman and child in our project.  

On the first day we had hundreds of villagers queuing up and spent 10 hours filling out paperwork and taking photographs and fingerprints (or footprints in the case of babies).

All of our projects help local people protect their rainforest. Simple things like registrations are key to keeping forest standing. The next step in our Strengthening Lives campaign is to help newly documented community members sign up for SIS – Peru’s National Health Insurance system. This will at last give people access to the regional clinics and hospitals. It’s a huge step forward and will play a big part in making sure Asháninka villages stay in control of their lives and their forest.

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