By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
The head of Mission Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), Nigeria, Phillip Aruna has said the organisation has been able to treat 5,000 children of lead poisoning in Zamfara State, since it commenced in 2010.
Recall that LEAD poisoning was identified as the major cause of poisoning leading to deaths of over 300 children.
Speaking at the inauguration of the development partners and donor agencies coordination group on mining, which held in Abuja on Friday, the Head of mission said “Till date, MSF with the collaboration of government of Nigeria have been able to treat 5000 children of this kind of problem in Zamfara.”
Mr Aruna said, “We thought this problem was going away, so we were looking at preventive strategies to see how this can be prevented in future, then suddenly in April 2015,a similar thing happened again in Niger state, where in an LGA in Shikira community, children presented the same problem and it was again found to be reported as a result of artisanal mining.”
He said “Currently MSF is working in both Niger and Zamfara state to address lead poisoning.”
Noting that the MSF had been working in Zamfara since 2010, he stated that that treatment of lead poisoning is not a simple treatment”
Giving a brief fact of Lead , he said “The poison is not an infection, it is entirely preventable, we can prevent lead from the source, so if we put in a preventive strategy to all the mining activity we do there is no problem to have this contamination in the community”
He maintained that this is not a problem that might go away, it is a problem that will be here as long as mining is taking place, especially artisanal mining” he said
“Since we have been in the fields, discovery of contamination is obviously relegated areas, it is saddening and, the whole of children we are treating, we see that they are not responding to treatment and this is critical for a workable safer mining programme to sustain, prevent lead poisoning” he added
Mr Aruna urged that to ensure prevention, safer mining programs that do not criminalise artisanal mining should be developed or considered and implemented for the long term sustainability of remedies, noting that “experience in Nigeria and elsewhere shows that the attempt to prevent artisanal miners from operating because they are illegal is often futile and only drives them further aground, away from formal economy and legal framework”
He added that “At the least safer mining programmes should consider behaviour change strategy that are based on understanding incentive structures and held with perceptions in the community, technologies that are culturally appropriate and economically feasible, revision and strengthening of legal frameworks to allow regularization of artisanal mining and also advocate strong institutional lead poisoning prevention strategy associated with gold mining at state and national levels.