Friday Olokor, Abuja


The Federal Government has confirmed the death of 28 children in a fresh outbreak of lead poisoning from illegal mining in Niger State.

The Minister of State for Health, Fidelis Nwankwo, who stated this during a press briefing on Wednesday in Abuja, said 63 cases of the outbreak had been confirmed by the state government, while many animals in affected communities had died.

He said there was palpable fear among neighbouring communities in Kaduna State, noting however that the disease was not contagious.

The communities affected are Shikira, Magiro Ward and Kawo, all in Rafi Local Government Area, according to the Director of Port Health in the Ministry, Dr. Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, who led the Federal Government’s team to the areas.

Gwarzo emphasised that the current outbreak was deadlier than the one which broke out in Zamfara in 2011 in which 400 people were killed.

According to him. the public should not have exercise fear over the outbreak but should instead, take all precautionary measures against its spread.

Nwankwo said the health ministry received the report of the outbreak on the May 7 and immediately swung into action.

He said, “The lead poisoning was confirmed and it is confirmed that most of the people affected are children below the age of five years.

“The affected children were found to have high serum lead levels of between 171.5 – 224ug Pb/dl (normal is less than < 10ug Pb/dl). That means, 17-22 times higher than the acceptable limits as established by the World Health Organisation.

“The rapid assessment by the NCDC/FMOH/MMSD revealed that as of May 12, 2015, 65 cases and 28 deaths had occurred giving a case fatality rate of 43 per cent. All the 28 cases were children below the age of five, made up of 17 females and 11 males.

“Additionally, the finding revealed a serious impact on our livestock with cows, goats and chickens most affected.

“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.”

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