Nigeria lead poisoning kills scores
Up to 100 children among dead due to illegal mining in country's north, official says.
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2010 19:49 GMT
Jonathan, the president, recently inaugurated a mineral processing plant in Zamfara state [AFP]

At least 163 people have died in northern Nigeria in recent weeks as a result of lead poisoning from illegal gold mining in several remote villages.

Henry Akpan, the Nigerian health ministry's chief epidemiologist, said on Friday that 111 children were among those killed in Zamfara state, many of them under the age of five.

The poisonings began when villagers started digging illegally for gold and transporting crushed rock home from the mines.

The soil containing lead deposits was haphazardly disposed of leading to instances of children playing with it.

"We discovered unusual cases of abdominal pains with vomiting, nausea and some having convulsions," Akpan told the Reuters news agency.

He said health officials had also found children playing in water close to the mining sites when they visited.

"These people were around the area where they were digging for gold. The fatality rate is 46 per cent."

Containing the 'epidemic'

Nigerian authorities have asked for assistance from various international health agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to help contain the outbreak of lead poisoning.

Akpan said the number of cases has fallen since April after local authorities halted illegal mining and began evacuating residents.

"We are doing a lot to contain the epidemic," he said.

"We have been able to get on top of this. The number of reported illnesses have fallen. We are winning."

The impoverished state of Zamfara is rich in minerals including gold, copper, iron ore and manganese.

Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria's president, recently inaugurated a mineral processing plant in the state, which is seeking to attract investment.

Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
President Poroshenko arrives in Washington on Thursday with money and military aid on his mind, analysts say.
Early players in private medicine often focused on volume over quality, turning many Chinese off for-profit care.
Al Jazeera asked people across Scotland what they think about the prospect of splitting from the United Kingdom.
With social media dominating communication among young Americans, taunting is no longer confined to school hours.
Referendum on Scottish independence is the first major election in the UK where 16 and 17-year olds get a vote.
join our mailing list