28 Children Die In Niger Lead Poisoning | Independent Newspapers Limited
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28 Children Die In Niger Lead Poisoning

Posted: May 14, 2015 at 7:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

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•Minister Blames Communities’ Nearness To Mines

By Hassan Zaggi, 

Abuja

 

Twenty-eight persons, mostly children below the age of five, reportedly died in a fresh outbreak of Lead Poisoning in some villages in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State.

The deceased, according to the Minster of State for Health, Fidelis Nwankwo on Wednesday, were among the total of 65 cases recorded.

The villages mostly affected included Maigiro and Kawo, which are near new mining sites found to contain more leaded ores often brought home for crushing and processing to the communities.

Nwankwo, who addressed the media in Abuja, warned residents of the area to desist from eating affected cows and goats.

A breakdown of the figure showed that of the 28 deaths, 17 were females and 11 males, in addition to cows and goats are also affected.

The Minister explained that “upon receipt of the report from the Niger State Ministry of Health on the May 7, the Federal Ministry of Health in coordination with the Ministry of mines and Steal Development jointly raised a technical team of eight persons who visited Niger State on a scoping mission between May 9 and12, to verify the occurrence of the reported outbreak, its causative agents, magnitude and dimension, as well as to bring up recommendations for rapid response and long term interventions,” noted.

On the findings, he explained that: “Lead Poisoning was confirmed and it is confirmed that most of the people affected are children below the age of five years.

“The affected children were found to have high serum levels of between 171.5 to 224pb/dl (normal is less than 10pb/dl). That means, 17 to 22 times higher than the accepted limits as established by the World Health Organisation.

“The rapid assessment by the NCDC revealed that as at 12th May, 65 cases and 28 deaths had occurred giving case fatality rate of 43 per cent. All the 28 cases were in children below the age of five and female 17 female than male 11.

“Additionally, the finding revealed that a serious impact on our livestock with cows, goats and chickens most affected.

“The devastating impact of this outbreak is associated with new mining sites which were found to contain more leaded ores which are often brought home for crushing and processing.”

The minister said his ministry has since embarked on advocacy meetings with community leaders and youth groups to enlist their understanding, buy- and support.

The health ministry, according to the minster has also commenced non specific, palliative treatment of the sick children in Kagara Hospital; sharing with communities and miners health and mining safety precautions through health talks and film shows in the local languages.

At least 734 children also below the age of five, out of 5,395 confirmed killed by lead poisoning between 2010 and March 2013 in Zamfara State.

Dr. Nasiru Umar Tsafe of the Nigerian Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme, Abuja gave the figure in 2013, during a presentation on ‘Epidemiological Response to Lead Poisoning in Zamfara State, 2010-2013,’ at a symposium on lead poisoning, organised by the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital, Sokoto.

He noted then that as at March 2013, the number of children under five, who had been treated, was 2,070, representing about 62.8 per cent while 3,198 others needed treatment.

Also, 30 of the 38 villages that require emergency intervention were yet to be remediated, Tsafe added, explaining that children within the 10 to 24 months age group, were repeatedly identified as the most vulnerable, due to frequent soil-to-mouth activity they were exposed to.

He noted that out of 199 villages surveyed, 38 required emergency response but that only eight were remediated and are currently receiving treatments, describing that particular lead poisoning crisis as unprecedented.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “changes in animals can provide an early warning of the presence of disease or a dangerous change in the environment.”