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Niger Community Cries Out Over Lead Poisoning

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A year after a tragic outbreak of lead poisoning in Shikira, a rural community in Niger State, which led to the death of scores of children, the government is yet to come to the aid of the people.

Abdulahi Katako, the Galadima of Kagara, told Global Rights Nigeria that officials of Niger State government have visited the community and made promises for the remediation of the community ravaged by lead poisoning but are yet to fulfil them.

“The governor of Niger state, the commissioner for health and other senior ministry of health officials have visited the community and made promises. But those promises have not been fulfilled, the community leader stated.

“What I think should be done is for the federal, state and local government to come together to address the problem because children are dying as a result of illicit gold mining in the community,” he said further.

In May 2015, there was an outbreak of lead poisoning due to illicit gold mining in Shikira community of Niger state leading to the death of scores of children.

Laboratory testing carried out in the community confirmed high levels of lead in the blood of scores of surviving children, livestock’s and water reserves.

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Families who lost children recounted tales of woes and said they are yet to get over their tragedies.

Fatima Umoru who lost four children to lead poisoning is still traumatised by the tragedy so much so that the sight of other children leaves her sad as she remembers the children she lost.

“I feel sad every day I remember my children; children you laugh together, eat together and do things together. Whenever I see other children I feel sad my children are no more.”

Huzi Adamu, also a bereaved mother, said she lost five children to lead poisoning. “We have lost our children and our properties and there is no one to help us. The government has forgotten us,” she said.

Within a few months after the outbreak of lead poisoning in the community, more than 28 children reportedly died.

The illness has taken many of the children away starts by vomiting and running temperature. It is usually followed by uncontrollable convulsion.

The woes of the community are compounded as they can not access medical treatment in government hospitals, forcing parents to seek help of traditional medicine practitioners.

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In May, a non – governmental organisation, NGO, Connected Development called on the federal government to approve a N500 million clean up intervention fund for remediation work in the community.

The Executive Director of CODE, Hamzat Lawal, lamented that nothing serious had been done about the tragedy one year after the submission of the report of the Response Planning committee on outbreak of Lead Poisoning in Shakira.

“It is sad that nothing meaningful has been done about the crisis since the submission of the Committee’s report which contained that N500 million, this kind of attitudes is even more worrisome and shocking as the outbreak left other children with many anomalies such as fever, pallor, abdominal pain, vomiting, convulsion, altered level of consciousness and nervous breakdown. If nothing is done urgently, these children would be deformed for life,” he warned.

 

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