Twenty-eight children have died and dozens have been sick from illegal poisoning gold mining in a remote west-central village of Nigeria, health officials told AP.
Michelle Chouinard, Nigeria director for Doctors Without Borders, said on Friday that there are many children who are sick and need to be taken care of not to suffer irreversible neurological damage.
Treating hundreds of children, Chouinard’s organization has been working in Nigeria voluntarily since 2010.
Chouinard states that 400 children have been killed and many were paralyzed, left blind without learning abilities because of a three-year delay in government funding for a cleanup.
Chouinard said they have cured 2,688 of 5,451 people infected and hope to complete treatment next year. They have had most success in the worst-affected village of Bagega, where all but 189 of 1,426 people have had the lead leached from their bodies.
Junior Health Minister Fidelis Nwankwo said on Thursday that all those newly infected in neighboring Niger state are under 5 with 43 percent of the 65 sickened children dying.
"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," he said.
Although artisanal mining was forbidden by the previous government, the poor villagers made up 10 times as much from gold than other farming.
"This (training) is working fairly well and I think it's one of the contributing factors to why the number of patients is decreasing so much and so quickly in Bagega," Chouinard said.