A Heavy Price
Since 2010 ongoing, widespread, acute lead poisoning in
state has killed at least 400 children. It is considered the worst outbreak of lead poisoning in modern history, with more than 3,500 children requiring urgent, life-saving treatment. Fewer than half are receiving it. Among affected adults, there are high rates of infertility and miscarriage.
Zamfara is a mineral-rich state, with significant deposits of gold. The acute lead poisoning there is a result of artisanal gold mining: small scale mining
with rudimentary tools. Miners crush and grind ore to extract gold, and in the process release dust that is highly contaminated with lead. Children in
affected areas are exposed to this dust when they work in the processing site, when their relatives return home covered with the dust on their clothes and hands, and when the processing occurs at home. Children are also exposed to this highly toxic lead in contaminated water and food sources.
International partners, in cooperation with the Zamfara state government, have treated 1,500 children and cleaned up 7 contaminated villages. But thousands of children still need treatment and thousands more are still at risk of acute lead poisoning because their villages remain contaminated.
In Bagega, the largest and most contaminated village, environmental remediation and the implementation of safer mining practices to prevent recontamination are urgently needed and must be put in place before comprehensive treatment can be provided for children. Yet little or no funding for these efforts has been provided by the government or international donors. Experts estimate that the cost of providing the
environmental remediation, for implementing safer mining and providing
treatment for the children in critical need, is US $5 million.
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