Lead Poisoning Crisis in Zamfara State, Northern Nigeria


In March 2010, MSF was alerted to a high number of child fatalities in Zamfara state, northern Nigeria—an estimated 400 children died. Laboratory testing later confirmed high levels of lead in the blood of the surviving children.

MSF is a central player in treating lead poisoning in Zamfara state, and is responding to the acute phase of this emergency. MSF has for the moment controlled mortality, but patients with lead poisoning will require significant long-term treatment and follow-up.The root cause of the lead poisoning crisis is unsafe mining and ore processing. People who engage in mining and ore processing must be given access to facilities and programs to allow them to safely mine and process ore without exposing themselves or others to toxic lead.

There are three pillars that must be implemented for an effective response to the crisis:

▲ Medical care including chelation therapy and health education
▲ Environmental remediation
▲ Safer mining practicesPhoto: A worker holds up a piece of mercury-gold amalgam at the Bagega processing site. The gold extraction process produces dangerous lead as a byproduct.
Nigeria 2012 © Olga Overbeek/MSF

Lead Poisoning Crisis in Zamfara State, Northern Nigeria

In March 2010, MSF was alerted to a high number of child fatalities in Zamfara state, northern Nigeria—an estimated 400 children died. Laboratory testing later confirmed high levels of lead in the blood of the surviving children.

MSF is a central player in treating lead poisoning in Zamfara state, and is responding to the acute phase of this emergency. MSF has for the moment controlled mortality, but patients with lead poisoning will require significant long-term treatment and follow-up.

The root cause of the lead poisoning crisis is unsafe mining and ore processing. People who engage in mining and ore processing must be given access to facilities and programs to allow them to safely mine and process ore without exposing themselves or others to toxic lead.

There are three pillars that must be implemented for an effective response to the crisis:

▲ Medical care including chelation therapy and health education
▲ Environmental remediation
▲ Safer mining practices

Photo: A worker holds up a piece of mercury-gold amalgam at the Bagega processing site. The gold extraction process produces dangerous lead as a byproduct.
Nigeria 2012 © Olga Overbeek/MSF

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