Almost 12 years after environmental contamination began causing the death of hundreds of children in Zamfara in northern Nigeria, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has handed over its lead poisoning project to state authorities, as children are no longer dying of lead poisoning in the area.
In March 2010, MSF received an alert about a high number of child fatalities in Zamfara State, where more than 400 children died within just six months in several villages. Laboratory tests later confirmed high levels of lead in the blood of survivors. The root cause of the poisoning was environmental contamination through unsafe, artisanal mining activities in the area, where gold deposits contain an unusually high concentration of lead. Lead can cause severe brain damage and death in children.
Between May 2010 and December 2021, the MSF teams screened 8,480 children under five for lead poisoning. More than 80% of them were enrolled in a medical lead programme, including 3,549 children who received lengthy chelation therapy – a chemical process in which a synthetic solution is injected into the bloodstream to remove heavy metals and/or minerals from the body – to remove lead from their blood.
However, challenges remain. Artisanal mining is a poverty-driven activity that will persist as long as gold mining is profitable. – (allafrica.com)