The Land Of Fires…

Is the title of the last chapter of Roberto Saviano’s ‘Gomorra’. It’s the Italy buried in toxic waste where children are dying of cancer and brave mothers and fathers rise above their pain to fight for change.

‘The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. ’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I began to realize how deep the mafia mentality was rooted in Italian society the day my grandfather advised me to return home and continue my life in Canada once I finished university. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘I don’t have the connections we need to find you a job here.’ He answered. I decided to stay, regardless. I was in love, I wanted to get married, have children. So I did but, after twenty eight years and some time spent teaching English as a temporary worker, I am still unemployed. In the long run this translates into a bleek old age with a very miserable pension.

On a mid-July evening, almost ten years ago I attended a conference that changed my perception of life in this country. The guest speaker was Salvatore Borsellino, younger brother of Paolo Borsellino, an Italian magistrate killed by the mafia in July 1992. I came out with the realization that in order for things to change in Italy everyone needed to start doing their part. For me, this meant writing and spreading awareness.

One of the first books I read about organized crime in Italy was Roberto Saviano’s ‘Gomorra’. The last chapter gives an in depth look at the dynamics of illegal toxic waste being buried and burned in an area of Italy sadly known as ‘The Land of Fire’.

The epithet is referred to the Campania region. Specifically to an area that extends from Naples to Caserta straight through to Salerno. Illegal dump sites can easily be spotted in the country and along roadsides. When it comes time to make room for new loads of waste, the old ones are burned. The majority of the garbage that is ‘disposed’ of in these areas is toxic for the environment. It pollutes the air, the soil, the water. It makes farm animals sick (see mozzarella di bufala)and ultimately lands on family tables.

Italy’s Superior Insitute of Health (ISS) latest report states:

‘The epidemiological profile of populations resident in these municipalities is characterized by a series of excesses in mortality, cancer incidents and hospitalization for several diseases with a multifactorial etiology, that include among their ascertained or suspected risk factors exposure to environmental contaminants that can be emitted or released by uncontrolled hazardous waste dumping sites and combustion of both urban and hazardous waste. As far as child heath is concerned, some critical aspects must be considered, namely excesses of child hospitalization in the first year of life for all cancers, and children hospitalized for brain cancer both in the first year of life and in the 0–14 age class. Data inspection by municipality of residence requiring further and urgent analyses have been uncovered.’

In the 1980’s mafia boss Nunzio Perrella told magistrates that ‘garbage is gold’. A multi billion dollar industry that fattens organized crime and affiliates who belong to the political and industrial scene, while killing children of all ages in Campania, like Dalia, 12 years old forever.

‘Dalia passed away fourteen months after she was diagnosed with lymphoma. She wanted to become a doctor. ’ Tina Zaccaria is Dalia’s mother and president of ‘Angel Warriors Of The Land Of Fires.’

A non-profit organization whose mission is to help and support families and little patients who are battling cancer. The mothers and fathers of ‘Angel Warriors Of The Land Of Fires’ have become their children’s voices. They have ‘become the change they want to see’ and are determined to win back a safe and healthy envioronment for future generations. They are close to those in need, every day, despite their own pain, maybe in function of it.

Between the months of November 20016 and February 20017, fourteen children have died of cancer in the Land Of Fires.

From the organization’s facebook page parents denounce:

‘If the head of the Cancer Registrar Napoli 3 asserts the death of five children in three months in our territory , while parents have indisputable evidence of the deaths of fourteen children, it is clear that, to this day institutions responsible for safeguarding our children’s health as well as our own are clueless as to what is happening in our homes.

This is not a senseless number war, like some people think. It is proof that something is not working properly at the Cancer Registrar Office in Campania. But, above all it proves that death rates here are three times higher than the national average. Either nobody knows or, they pretend not to know.

Our children are pleading for truth and justice. They will never be able to rest in peace without it.’

Davide 7 months old forever, Simone 12 years old forever, Tonia 4 years old forever, Sara 12 years old forever, Rocco 12 years old forever, Mariana 7 years old forever, Maria 4 years old forever, Luigi 9 years old forever, Italia 10 years old forever, Giuseppe 12 years old forever, Raffaella forever a little girl, Giovanni 4 years old forever, Francesco 18 years old forever, Ciro 11 years old forever.

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