Zamfara, a state in the North of Nigeria has a lot of gold. But the price to get it out is high. Lead poisoning in the area has already killed at least 500 children. Many more are struggling for their survival. “It is believed to be the worst lead poisoning in modern history”, the Human Rights Watch writes.
When the unprotected workers in the area grind rocks in order to release gold they also release large amounts of lead into the air. This toxic dust is especially dangerous for children and their developing immune systems. They are exposed to it either directly – by working in the mines themselves – or indirectly, from the clothes of their relatives who come home from working in the mines. However, lead also gets into water supplies such as lakes and rivers and reaches even more people. In other words: a large area of Zamfara is simply contaminated. Therefore the death of children will continue – a loss of a whole generation for the region.
The authorities have turned a blind eye to the problem from the beginning, intrigued by the high returns from gold mining. The people were never informed about what working in the mines could mean for their children. “International partners, in cooperation with the Zamfara state government have treated 1500 children and cleaned up 7 contaminated villages.” But what is still needed are safe mining practices and a clean-up of the all of the area: many children are in need of treatment and many more are exposed to the toxic dust every day.
Find more information on the page of the Human Rights Watch.