The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also known as Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), said it had treated 5,600 victims of lead poison in Zamfara and Niger states.
Deputy Head of Mission, Operational Center Amsterdam, Dr. Simba Tirima, told reporters yesterday in Abuja that the victims in the two states received drugs distributed by the organisation.
He said, “It is a bit tricky to estimate how much was spent for treating the affected people because we also deal with other diseases apart from lead poisoning at the same time.
“I will say the cost implication for their treatments is worth millions of dollars; one drug administered per person costs about three dollars and a patient takes up to six drugs per day.”
He explained that the poison was due to environmental contamination from artisanal gold mining, adding that in 2010, eight villages were affected in Zamfara.
According to him, about 5,500 people, including old and young, were affected in the eight villages in Zamfara, adding that the NGO took measures to avoid more deaths.
He said at the end of May, about 430 out of 5,500 affected victims in Zamfara remained in the treatment programme. “We treated both old and young ones; while the state government sponsored the remediation of all contaminated areas.”
In Niger, he said two villages, including Unguwar Magiro and Unguwar Kawo in Rafi Local Government Area, were affected by contamination from artisanal gold mining in April 2016.
He said that MSF treated the lead poison victims and facilitated the remediation of the affected areas in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment to ensure children were no longer exposed to the contaminant.
He noted that children were most affected because of their sensitivity to lead poison, adding that the poison had the capacity to damage children’s memories and bodies in ways that would not be discovered easily.
He said effects of lead poison could pose dangers on children in future, adding that they could have problems of kidney failure, aggressive nature, among others if MSF had not given adequate attention on time.
He said a workable safer mining programme for artisanal miners would be the best way to sustain, reduce and prevent lead poisoning associated with artisanal gold mining in Nigeria.
No fewer than 400 children in Zamfara and 30 children in Niger were reported dead from lead poisoning in 2010.
Lead comes from the dust created by rock-ore gold mining activities; the dust settles on the ground in compounds and it gets inside the children through the mouth.
Lead poisoning could be entirely prevented by stopping exposure to the poison, but difficult to treat once the poison is inside the body.
Treatment does not cure lead poisoning, it helps some poison to leave the body more quickly than it will naturally; therefore, preventing further damage or death.