Nigeria: Lead Poisoning - Affected Children Yet to Get Treatment Two Years After. allafrica.com. February 08, 2012. Thousands of children in northern Nigeria need immediate medical treatment and dozens of villages remain contaminated two years into the worst lead poisoning epidemic in modern history, Human Rights Watch said yesterday while releasing a video on the issue in Lagos.
Four hundred children have died, according to official estimates, yet environmental cleanup efforts have not even begun in numerous affected villages.
Research by Human Rights Watch in Zamfara in late 2011 found that children are exposed to the lead dust when they process ore in the mines, when their miner relatives return home covered with lead dust, and when the lead-filled ore is manually or mechanically crushed at home.
Healthcare workers in Zamfara State told Human Rights Watch that there have also been high rates of infertility and miscarriage among affected adults.
"Zamfara's gold brought hope for prosperity, but resulted in deaths and backbreaking labour for its children," said Babatunde Olugboji, deputy programme director at Human Rights Watch. "People living in Zamfara State should not have to trade their lives, or their children's lives, for the chance to mine gold and make a living."
The report said the Zamfara State government, in partnership with international organizations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and the United States Centre for Disease Control, has treated more than 1,500 children with acute lead poisoning, but thousands more children urgently need the life-saving chelation therapy treatment that removes lead from the body.
"Unless their homes are cleaned up and their relatives have access to safer mining techniques that minimize exposure to lead-contaminated dust, treatment will not be effective as children will be repeatedly re-exposed," the report said.