Denials slow battle against Nigeria lead poisoning

Aid agencies working to decontaminate parts of northern Nigeria where lead poisoning has killed more than 400 children are battling concealment of deaths and lead-laden sites as well as the epidemic itself.

Last Updated: Oct 06, 2010, 21:42 PM IST

Anka: Aid agencies working to
decontaminate parts of northern Nigeria where lead poisoning
has killed more than 400 children are battling concealment of
deaths and lead-laden sites as well as the epidemic itself.

Hundreds of children have died in the last six months in
seven villages in Zamfara state, where lead-rich run-off from
illegal gold mining has entered the soil and water supply,
according to Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without
Borders - MSF).

More than 3,000 children live in seven affected villages
in an area of high-intensity wildcat gold mining, said
Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.

But locals are reluctant to disclose the poisoning
victims for fear authorities will ban their activities.

"It sometimes takes us two weeks to convince the
communities to open up because they are scared we are going to
stop them from processing ore that fetches them money," said
Ian von Lindern of TerraGraphics, a US environmental
engineering firm helping to decontaminate some of the
villages.

For two weeks recently, Bagega villagers denied any
deaths or illnesses among the 1,800 under-fives in the area
with a population of 9,000 people, he said.

PTI