Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with Medicins Sans Frontieres MSF (Doctors without Borders) have organized international conference on lead poison where major stakeholders in the health sector were invited to deliberate on how to end the lead poison crisis in Zamfara state.
Representatives from Federal Ministries of Mines and Steel Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development,
World Health Organization, the Executive Governor of Zamfara State as well as the Emir of Anka, Zamfara State witnessed the opening ceremony of the occasion on Wednesday 9th May,2012.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Health, Prof. C.O. Onyebuchi Chukwu represented by the Director of Public Health, Dr. Mansur Kabir said that the nation was shocked when report of the outbreak of lead poison in Zamfara State which had killed about 400 children less than 5 years of age, broke.
“The outbreak occurred in some villages where artisanal gold mining activities were taking place in the domestic setting, resulting in dangerous exposure of high risk group such as pregnant women and children to lead. Our country was faced with the task of controlling an unprecedented lead poison outbreak in modern history because of the large number of children affected and those that died”, he stressed.
He said under his leadership a multi-sectoral task force was set up to coordinate response activities at the national level stressing that significant progress was made in controlling the lead poisoning outbreak in Zamfara state.
The Minister maintained that the battle is not yet over since there was a report that the illegal mining activities in some affected villages is still taking place.
He decried that if this continues, there is likelihood of re-contamination of previous remediated villages and exposure of children to lead.
He noted that to sustain the progress recorded so far, there is need to strengthen coordination among all stakeholders so that the collective national interventions can be cost effective.
In his remarks, Alh. Abdul Aziz Yari who is the Executive Governor of Zamfara State, represented by the Commissioner of Water resources Engnr. Abdullahi Tsafe said that the present administration has made several efforts at addressing the issue of contamination, environmental degradation as well as promotion of safety amongst the small scale artisanal miners.
He said the state government with support of other stakeholders has launched a remediation programme in the affected villages.
Also in his goodwill message, the Head of mission, Medicin Sans Frontiers, Nigeria, Mr. Ivan Gayton said that the problem of lead poison in Zamfara state is acute noting that the two day conference is going to tackle the issue headlong given the galaxy of expertise at the conference.
He said, “We must address the issue undermining peoples’ lives, the expertise is here to reduce extensively the mortality arising from lead poison. We have opportunities to come up with suggestions to tackle the issue.”