As I’m sure none of you know, there has been pretty dramatic crisis in Northern Nigeria involving lead poisoning. After discovering a large deposit of gold in this area, local villagers, thinking they’d found an escape from poverty, began to mine this gold. The villagers in an honest effort to maximize profits began to cart gold-rich ore to compounds at home where women extracted the valuable metal. However the waste product, a seemingly harmless mixture of metal slag was dumped right in the heart of these villages, where children, often barefoot, spend most of their time. It turned out that the slag byproduct contained lead, a heavy metal that is terribly toxic and especially dangerous to children, as it cause severe developmental issues. After a few short weeks of mining in these small, isolated 7 villages of 30,000 people all together, over a hundred people, mostly children, dropped straight dead.
The death toll is grossly underreported. The scary thing is that the villagers had absolutely no idea that what was supposed to bring prosperity to their families would actually kill their children, and the truth was shocking to some. However once the message was properly conveyed, the villagers were horrified, and immediately moved all mining related activities out of the villages, where extraction can be done in a controlled and harmless manner.
To make things worse, the rains will come in a matter of days, washing the lead particles deep into the earth and spreading the contaminated dirt all over these villages. If this happens before proper remediation efforts have been implemented, hundreds, more likely thousands of people, children, could be crippled or killed. Fortunately, the international press has gotten wind of this horrible story, and some attention is being brought to the situation.
The scariest thing of all is the fact that despite the news coverage and volunteers willing to do anything they can to fix the situation, the money just isn’t there. A site can only be cleaned properly using a relatively cheap piece of technology, however the struggle continues to find this tiny sum of money, which numbers in the tens of thousands of dollars, either from the Nigerian government or other sources. Its a little sad that we and every other citizen of a developed country, as members of the internationally community can’t pool together enough money, money that wouldn’t buy a small house, to save thousands of lives. The numbers don’t make sense, and I’m sure that there are enough compassionate people in the world who wouldn’t think twice about supporting a cause such as this, but simply aren’t aware of the gravity of the situation or that there is a situation in the first place.
Finally, this issue is being properly dealt with, and government money is slowly on its way. However many lives may be lost in that time.
Bottom line, we can identify two underlying problems at the root of the crisis: poverty, and lack of communication. Only by solving these issues can we definitively prevent catastrophes like this from happening again.
Here is the CNN coverage
You can donate easily to the cause online at http://www.blacksmithinstitute.org
On a lighter note, Happy Fathers Day dad