News / Africa

    Nigeria's Pledge to Clean Up Poisoned Village Comes Too Late for Some

    At this clinic near Sumke Village, Nigeria, Doctors Without Borders medical staff treat children for lead poisoning. Doctors say they cannot screen the thousands of at-risk children in the village of Bagega because there is still lead in the soil.  (Heather Murdock / VOA)
    At this clinic near Sumke Village, Nigeria, Doctors Without Borders medical staff treat children for lead poisoning. Doctors say they cannot screen the thousands of at-risk children in the village of Bagega because there is still lead in the soil. (Heather Murdock / VOA)
    Heather Murdock
    More than nine months after the funds were allocated, the Nigerian government has begun cleaning a village that could be the world's worst lead poisoning site. 

    Activists are cautiously optimistic that the move is the first step in a process that could save hundreds of children, but some health workers say, for the most vulnerable children, it is already too late.

    Last May, activists celebrated when the Nigerian government announced it would put aside more than $4 million to clean up Bagega, a village in the epicenter of what is called the worst lead poisoning outbreak in history. In June, health workers sent out an email, saying the funds had been released and the clean-up would commence, after which, sick children could be treated for lead poisoning.

    Children gather water in Bagega, Nigeria, where thousands have been exposed to lead poisoning, Oct. 2012. (H. Murdock for VOA)
    Children gather water in Bagega, Nigeria, where thousands have been exposed to lead poisoning, Oct. 2012. (H. Murdock for VOA)

    In October, VOA visited the village.  No one was cleaning anything and health workers were beside themselves with grief.  Children were still dying.

    But now Doctors Without Borders mission head Ivan Gayton says the clean-up has finally begun and health workers are preparing to screen up to 1,500 children.

    “Oh, it’s just an incredible relief," he said." We’ve been hammering away at this for a year. There were actually times that I lost hope. There were times that I didn’t think this would get done.  That we’d have to just eventually walk away.”

    Children in Bagega have been exposed to lead poisoning for years, Gayton said, and many may already be permanently disabled or too sick to save. Some activists also fear the money for the clean-up could suddenly disappear before the job is done.

    Hamzat Lawal runs a local watchdog group called Follow The Money.  He hopes his organization’s use of social media will keep the government funds flowing to the village, rather than getting lost in anyone’s pockets.

    Corruption is well documented in this country, with billions of dollars worth of public funds being stolen in the past few years.  And that is only what is documented. In the meantime, Lawal prefers to be optimistic.

    “That means that the government of Nigeria is taking the public seriously," he said. "They’re taking its citizens seriously and they’re not stampeding on our human rights.”

    Some villages in Zamfara State lost 40 percent of their small children when the outbreak began in 2010.  Human Rights Watch says it also causes high levels of infertility and miscarriages among adults.

    Miners prepare to transport a particularly large rock containing gold ore, Oct. 2012.Miners prepare to transport a particularly large rock containing gold ore, Oct. 2012.
    x
    Miners prepare to transport a particularly large rock containing gold ore, Oct. 2012.
    Miners prepare to transport a particularly large rock containing gold ore, Oct. 2012.
    ​The lead comes from artisanal gold mining in an area that happens to be also rich in lead. 

    Miners crush rocks extracting gold ore and lead dust gets on their clothes and into the environment.

    Miners say if they did not dig for gold, those children would live in abject poverty.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.