Nigeria frees long-delayed funds to address lead poison

Health workers excavate contaminated soil at Dareta village, Anka district in Zamfara State on June 10, 2010. Nigeria has provided nearly $3 million in long-delayed financing to clean up part of an area where lead poisoning has killed hundreds of children, Doctors Without Borders said.

Nigeria has provided nearly $3 million in long-delayed financing to clean up part of an area where lead poisoning has killed hundreds of children, Doctors Without Borders said Thursday.

The crisis in northwest Zamfara state that first came to light in 2010 was called the worst such epidemic "in modern history" by Human Rights Watch, with an official saying 400 children were killed across the state.

The government in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, has come under mounting pressure from activists to release the funds, saying more children's lives were at risk.

The $2.7 million (two million euros) that Nigeria has made available will be spent cleaning up the village of Bagega, one of the hardest hit areas, where up to 1,500 children are suffering from lead poisoning, Ivan Gayton of France-based Doctors Without Borders (MSF) told AFP.

Gayton said the other seven villages affected by the epidemic had been cleared of .

"The federal government, through the ministry of environment, has made available $2.7 million needed to begin the remediation in Bagega village in Zamfara state and we expect to begin the exercise on Monday," Gayton told AFP.

In November, MSF released a report that said the in Bagega needed to be removed before the rainy season starts in April, warning of potentially "disastrous" consequences if rainfall caused the to spread further.

"We've been sounding the alarm increasingly since November," Gayton said.

Clean up, known as remediation, cannot be carried out during the and treatment can only begin once remediation is complete.

Lead was dispersed in several Zamfara areas by the processing of ore for gold extraction using unsafe mining techniques. Illicit is more lucrative than agriculture for the impoverished farming communities.

Local communities had initially largely concealed or denied the fatalities and illnesses from lead poisoning for fear that authorities would ban their mining activities.

Gayton said that when the cleanup is complete, additional funds will be needed to put in place safer mining practices.

Most Nigerians live on less than $2 per day despite the oil wealth in the country, which has long been held back by corruption and mismanagement.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nigeria lead poisoning 'worst in modern history': HRW

Feb 07, 2012

A lead poisoning epidemic in Nigeria's north that has killed 400 children and affected thousands is the worst in modern history, but cleanup has not even begun in many areas, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

Lead poisoning in 2,000 children in north Nigeria

Oct 28, 2011

Illegal gold mining has left at least 2,000 children with lead poisoning in several northern Nigerian villages, where 400 children have already died from contamination, an official said Friday.

Environmental damage looms in Nigerian lead crisis

Jun 11, 2010

(AP) -- As masked Nigerian environmental experts examined a communal well in a village where more than 60 children were killed by lead poisoning, barefoot kids streaked with dust sat on the contaminated ground, ...

Recommended for you

Tooth loss linked to slowing mind and body

8 hours ago

The memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more rapidly than in those who still have some of their own teeth, finds new UCL research.

Hot flashes linked to increased risk of hip fracture

12 hours ago

Women who experience moderate to severe hot flashes and night sweats during menopause tend to have lower bone mineral density and higher rates of hip fracture than peers who do not have menopausal symptoms, according to a ...

Core hospital care team members may surprise you

13 hours ago

Doctors and nurses are traditionally thought to be the primary caretakers of patients in a typical hospital setting. But according to a study at the burn center intensive care unit at Loyola University Health System, three ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.