Lead Poisoning In Nigeria
Summary by: Natalie Thurtle
In 2010, 400 children died from lead encephalopathy in the largest lead poisoning outbreak ever recorded, affecting more than 5000 children in Zamfara state, Northern Nigeria. The outbreak is ongoing. The source is dust from artisanal gold mining, a major economic boon to a remote and rural population much in need. The response to the Zamfara outbreak is unprecedented and requires a nuanced interpretation of ‘critical care’. Key life-saving activities include multi-level advocacy to address source control, management of inter-current outbreaks of cholera, measles and meningitis, addressing the logistical challenges of large-scale environmental remediation and navigation of an increasingly difficult security context. The situation is so dynamic and dense that knowing which way is up, or which way might cause inadvertent harm, is an ever present challenge. This is the story of the Zamfara outbreak and response, but more importantly it is the story of the people affected, whose lives have been changed by a forgotten outbreak and whose deaths’ engender no outrage.