Human Rights Watch (HRW) Deputy Programme Director, Babatunde Olughobi has said over 2500 children have been treated for high level of lead poisoning by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders).
He also said that thousands more cannot be treated because they continue to be exposed to lead and for those children treatment would be ineffective or could lead to even more serious medical problems .
Olughobi stated this in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP in Abuja where he called for high level government participation at the forthcoming international conference to end the lead poisoning epidemic in Zamfara State. He said that it “was necessary to help thousands of children still at risk of death or long term disability as a result of exposure to Lead poisoning.”
He called on the federal government to come to the conference ready to take concrete steps and a specific timeline to ensure that the rights of children to health and life are protected, and added that while Nigerian government had pledged to begin environmental remediation of lead contaminated villages and support safer mining initiatives, little has been done in the most severely affected areas.
The international conference, he said, “will include representatives from the World Health Organisation(WHO), bilateral donor agencies, Non- governmental Organisations(NGOs) among others and will focus on the mass lead poisoning in northern Nigeria which is said to be one of the worst in modern history alleged to have killed over 400 children since march 2010.”
The deputy director said,” it has been more than two years since the epidemic began and government needs to end the inaction and delay”, and added that “if Nigeria’s federal government steps forward, Zamfara could become a model of how lead poisoning can be effectively addressed instead of an example of how hundreds of children needlessly lost their lives.”