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Network urges FG to release fund on Zamfara lead poisoned

09 December 2012, 15:25

Abuja - The Nigerian Youth Climate Action Network (NYCAN), on Sunday, appealed to the Federal Government to release the money meant to solve the problem of lead poison in Zamfara.

A statement issued in Abuja by Hamzat Lawal, the NYCAN Advisor, after a social media campaign in collaboration with Human Rights Watch, stated that the poisoning had left thousands of children to die or face lifelong disability.

He said that the release of the fund would enable the clean-up of the lead-contaminated areas in the state.

"If President Jonathan does not release the fund right away, children in Bagega will be forced to continue to live in poisoned homes.

"Children in Bagega are dying. If we wait for another year to clean up the poisoned areas, more children will die or become permanently disabled.’’

The statement quoted Babatunde Olugboji, the Deputy Programme Director; Human Rights Watch, as saying that more than 400 children had lost their lives to the mayhem.

"More than 400 children in Zamfara have died from lead poisoning and unless the promised funds are released immediately, clean up of the contaminated areas won’t start until after next year’s rainy season and more children are at risk.''

The statement noted that artisanal gold mines were found throughout the state, adding that high levels of lead in the earth and the use of rudimentary mining methods had resulted in an ongoing epidemic of lead poisoning among children.

It said children were particularly susceptible to the harm caused by lead and high levels of lead exposure could cause brain, liver, kidney, nerve, and stomach damage, as well as permanent disabilities.

The statement said that a research by Human Rights Watch in Zamfara in late 2011 found that children were exposed to lead when they process ore in the mines, when their miner relatives’ return home covered with lead dust, and when the lead-filled ore is manually or mechanically crushed at home.

Children could also be exposed to toxic lead in contaminated water and food.

"We have reached a crisis point in Zamfara. Thousands of children live in toxic environment and are in urgent need of treatment.

"President Jonathan needs to make good his promise and release the promised funds before the window of opportunity before the rainy season closes. But he needs to act fast.''

The statement also quoted Human Rights Watch researchers in May as saying that the government pledged close to US$5 million to clean up the contaminated areas.

It said that the Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), an independent international organisation for medical humanitarian aid had provided life-saving treatment to more than 2,000 children in Zamfara.

It, however, noted that the organisation could not treat the thousands of children who remained in urgent need until environmental cleanup had been completed.

"This is because treating children when they are still actively exposed to lead makes their bodies more susceptible to the harms of lead poisoning.

"The cleanup of Bagega will only take place if the Federal Government releases the promised funds, which should begin by mid-January to ensure its completion before the rainy season.''

-NAN

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