Nigeria: 28 Children Poisoned In An Illegal Gold Mine


Dozens of other small children are in serious condition

LAGOS, May 15 - Tragedy in an illegal gold mine in Nigeria. Twenty-eight children have died from lead poisoning in a remote village in the western-centre of the country. Dozens of other children are believed to be in a serious condition. This was reported by the health authorities. The tragedy occurred in the State of Zamfara, which was the location of another serious poisoning in a mine. Nigeria: 28 children poisoned in an illegal gold mine In 2010, the poisoning claimed the lives of 400 children, while many other infants were left paralyzed or blind. Nigerian health officials are still treating thousands of children who are still suffering from this earlier outbreak. Michelle Chouinard, the Nigerian director of Doctors Without Borders, told the Associated Press on Friday that urgent action needs to be taken to ensure that these children can avoid suffering irreversible neurological damage. This international organization is still treating children who were the victims of the 2010 mass lead poisoning, in Zamfara state, that killed 400 children and left many paralyzed, blind and with learning disabilities because of a three-year delay in government funding for a thorough cleaning operation of the area. Thankfully, Chouinard reported that they have now cured about half of the 5,451 people infected and hope to finish the treatment programme early next year. The success has been most notable in Bagega, a village where all the population, bar 189, have had to have the lead leached from their bodies.
On Thursday, the Nigerian Junior Health Minister, Fidelis Nwankwo, stated that all those who have been newly-affected in the neighbouring Nigerian state, are under the age of five. 43 per cent of these 65 poisoned children are believed to be dying. Nwankwo said: "The devastating impact of this outbreak is associated with new mining sites which were found to contain more leaded ores, which are often brought home for crushing and processing". Previous government attempts to outlaw artisanal mining have failed as poor villagers can make up to ten times more profit from gold mining than the alternative of farming. The processing area in Zamfara state contained over 100,000 parts per million of lead; the United Nations considers 400 parts per million to be safe. The Idaho-based TerraGraphics International Foundation spent five and a half months to make the Zamfara area clean and safe, also training villagers safer mining practices. Chouinard stated: "This (training) is working fairly well and I think it's one of the contributing factors to why the number of patients is decreasing so much and so quickly in Bagega".

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