The Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown origin (CKDu) epidemic is effecting nearly 70% of some communities of sugar cane workers in Nicaragua. The resulting fatalities of CKDu have left many families without a father and many women without husbands. As a result the community of La Isla has been nicknamed “La Isla de Viudas” – The Island of Widows. Research to discover the cause of this disease “is slow and is being hindered by widespread intimidation of local journalists and workers alike.” The sugar cane company will often provide the families of sick workers with a food stipend that in many cases gets revoked if the workers or their families try to speak out on the situation. Founded by Jason Glaser, La Isla Foundation (LIF) is an NGO fighting against the shrouding of this epidemic. LIF is striving to facilitate research to identify the cause of the epidemic, raise public awareness, and organize public health intervention.
Filmmaker Tom Laffay is working with La Isla Foundation in Nicaragua documenting the issue of CKDu in sugar cane workers. Laffay’s short documentary film “Solo La Caña” will be premiering at the Charleston International Film Festival on Friday April 26th, followed by a Q&A session. Tickets for the event are available here.