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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs