30 August 2012

Nigeria: Lead Poisoning Resurfaces in Zamfara

Photo: allAfrica.com
Nigerian children.

Gusau — Four villages in Gusau local government area have been hit by a resurgence of lead poisoning in Zamfara State, leading to the death of at least two children, the Emir of Gusau, Alhaji Mohammed Kabiru Danbaba, said yesterday.

Lead poisoning was first reported in Anka and Bukuyyum local government areas of Zamfara state around March 2010, blamed on unregulated gold mining. Over 400 persons, mostly children, died at the time.

Yesterday, the Emir of Gusau, in an announcement he personally read on Zamfara state-owned radio, said medics have confirmed the outbreak of lead poisoning in the state capital and neighbouring areas.

"We have confirmed that what happened in Anka and Bukkuyum two years back where many people died from a strange disease confirmed as lead poisoning is discovered in Gusau Emirate as result of the processing of gold ore within some communities," Danbaba said.

"Lead poisoning has affected many persons in four areas of my emirate. Medical officials have certified that it was the outbreak of lead poison. Many villagers are now having diarrhoea and are vomiting blood because of the poisoning.

"We have also received reports from Magami ward that some children were reported to have been affected by a disease which doctors confirmed as lead poison."

The Emir urged people of his emirate to report any person processing gold ore in their area to government officials, adding that expert opinion was that even in small quantity the substance could cause unimaginable damage to humans.

He quoted verses from the Holy Quran to say that Muslims are enjoined to distance themselves from anything that is capable of endangering their lives or people around them.

"The person that started processing gold ore in Gusau is also affected in this poisoning. He has been flown abroad for medication," the emir added.

Later yesterday, secretary to the Emirate Council, Alhaji Nura Kabir, gave the names of the affected communities as Samaru, Tsunami and Polo field wards in Gusau, and Maitsoshi village in Magami.

He said two children died in Maitoshi village while some cases were under investigation in other affected communities.

Kabir said that the emirate had notified the ministries of health, environment and local government affairs and the Gusau local government council for appropriate action.

Reacting to the development, Chairman of Gusau LGA, Alhaji Lawali Mada, said the council had commenced investigation to determine the nature of the disease.

But in a telephone interview with newsmen, Health commissioner Kabiru Mohammed Janyau said he was yet to receive the letter of the emirate.

"I heard of the outbreak too on the radio but we are yet to receive any formal complaint regarding it. Zamfara is the only state that has a laboratory for the analysis of lead poisoning in the country," he said.

"Before one can confirm the disease as lead poisoning, we have to analyse the blood sample of the affected children, and that is not a one day affair, so nobody can confirm the said cases as lead poisoning," the commissioner added.

When our correspondent visited the Federal Medical Centre, Gusau, the major hospital near the affected villages, officials said no lead poisoning victim was admitted at the hospital recently.

"The last time we had cases of lead poisoning brought here was over a year ago and the victims were not from Gusau, they were from Bukuyyum and Anka local government areas of the state. They were mainly children," a medical official at the paediatric unit of the hospital told our correspondent.

At the emergency unit of the hospital, a medical doctor on duty said there was no victim of lead poisoning on admission at the unit.

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