News / Africa

    Nigeria Pledges to Clean Up Deadly Lead Poisoning

    Village girls watch from a broken wall as local health workers remove earth contaminated by lead from a family compound in the village of Dareta in Gusau, Nigeria, June 10, 2010.
    Village girls watch from a broken wall as local health workers remove earth contaminated by lead from a family compound in the village of Dareta in Gusau, Nigeria, June 10, 2010.
    Heather Murdock
    ABUJA — The Nigerian government is preparing to release more than $4 million to clean up the site of the worst outbreak of lead poisoning in modern history. 

    International aid group Doctors Without Borders says it fears that without measures to ensure the funds reach the communities, thousands more children could be infected by what they call "staggering" levels of poison. 
     
    A few years ago, gold prices surged and small-time miners in Nigeria’s Zamfara State increased their incomes as much as tenfold, to $10 or $15 a day.  Since then, lead poisoning associated with the mining has killed hundreds of children and about 4,000 are still sick.
     
    In June, the Nigerian government pledged more than $4 million to clean up the lead.

    Now, as they get ready to disperse the funds, some people worry that with so much cash being spread around in a country well known for corruption, some of the funds may disappear.
     
    “I think everyone in Nigeria has seen programs gone awry due to issues of accountability.  It is my fervent hope that this will be an exception because this is not a game.  Children are dying.  It’s really important that corruption not derail this effort,” said Ivan Gayton, head of Nigeria’s Doctors Without Borders.

    He says thousands more children could be infected, risking death or severe brain damage if the cleanup is not successful.  Human Rights Watch says children have been found in Zamfara with as much as 70 times the amount of lead in their blood than is considered safe.  
     
    But Gayton says people continue gold mining despite the danger.  He says if authorities attempt to enforce a recently-reported ban on gold mining, it will only drive miners underground.  Fear already keeps many parents from reporting that their children are sick, he says.
     
    “People are very poor there and when they come across this fairly lucrative economic activity they can do they’re afraid to lose it.  And I have to say, if it’s a choice between poisoning your child in the future but being able to feed your child today," said Gayton. "It may sound easy for us to say, ‘Well, you shouldn’t do this.’  But it's very hard to not go out and earn the money that allows you [to] feed your child today.”

    Gayton says after the villages are cleaned up, safer mining practices need to be put into place and sick children need treatment.  He says he hopes that some of the government funds allocated for clean-up will be diverted towards establishing safer mines for the future and urges authorities to both literally and figuratively “get the lead out.”

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Ngwasi Chibikom from: Bamenda, Cameroon
    September 04, 2012 11:05 PM
    Yes, aid that never reaches it's intended destination would have no impact on the affected community. How does "aid" really amount to aid? Lead poisoning in today's Nigeria!!!? I hope Nigeria would live up to it's promise!!!!!! Let that money meet it's purpose, & not line the pockets of bureaucrats instead!

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 04, 2012 12:05 PM
    In a country where pharmacists open their eyes and load powder in capsules for children's medication in collaboration with government agencies, how can you expect that the government is going to do anything to save these children? The government that sees opportunity to make money in security breaches, who is going to monitor them to ensure that the right thing is done? It is a hopeless case, and by the end of the exercise, someone is going to smile to the bank while the problem continues to be the peasants' headache. The government at all levels in the country trade with people's lives and pay only lip service to alleviation programs they institute. This is not going to be an exception.
    In Response

    by: NigeriaHealth from: Nigeria
    September 05, 2012 5:32 AM
    I Just hope that the government of the day do something about this lead poisoning before this situation get worse than it is now. The Health of Nigerians should be Paramount to any elected leader
    http://www.nigeriahealthforum.com/
    In Response

    by: Jay from: Nigeria
    September 05, 2012 3:58 AM
    Thanks to the Federal Goverment for making the promise, i pray the money will be released and used for what is meant for and not in somebody's fat account or pocket. And thanks to Doctors Without Borders for treating the children too.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora