In March 2010 an unprecedented epidemic of lead poisoning was discovered in Zamfara State, northern Nigeria – the largest outbreak in history. Around 400 children died as a result of lead absorption from unsafe mining processes around the gold rich region of Zamfara. While medical care has been provided to over 2,500 children, and seven villages have been remediated (environmentally cleaned), much remains to be done. Doctors and volunteers on site have temporarily controlled mortality, but they continue to advocate that resolving the crisis requires more than this. The root cause of the lead poisoning crisis is unsafe mining and ore processing.
Funds to tackle the Zamfara lead poisoning crisis were promised by the President in May 2012, but have unfortunately not yet been released by the Secretary of the Government of the Federation. The devastating consequences of this inaction are most sharply seen in the village of Bagega and surrounding areas, where up to 1500 children continue to suffer the effects of lead poisoning. Medical treatment cannot start until Bagega has been environmentally remediated. In the absence of remediation, children are continually re-exposed to the toxins and medical treatment is useless. MSF (Doctors without Boarders) is ready and willing to treat children in this area, but is unable to do so until the urgently needed remediation has been completed.
Remediation was due to begin at the end of October 2012, directly after the rainy season but funds promised was never released by the government. If this remediation continues to be delayed, it will not be possible to complete the process before the next rainy season – and poisoned children won’t receive treatment for the foreseeable future…
GOV. ABDUL’AZIZ ABUBAKAR YARI
HON. BELLO MARADUN MUTAWALLE
HON. IBRAHIM SHEHU GUSAU
HON. MU’AZU B/TUDU LAWAL
HON. LAWALI ANKA HASSAN
HON. DANGALADIMA UMAR SANI
HON. BILIYAMINU SHINKAFI YUSUF
HON. SANI RUWAN DORUWA IBRAHIM
SEN. KABIR GARBA M
SEN. SAHABI ALHAJI YAU
SEN. AHMAD RUFAI SANI
PROFESSOR ONYEBUCH CHUKWU (MINISTER FOR HEALTH)
MRS. HADIZA IBRAHIM MAILAFA (MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT)
ALH. MOHAMMED PATE (MINISTER OF STATE HEALTH)
AMB. BASHIR YUGUDU
Despite the massive coverage of the endemic going on in Zamfara State of Nigeria, nothing concrete seems to be happening. Appeals from Senator Bukola Saraki, Doctors without Borders, CSOs and NGO’s both national and international has fallen on deaf ears but as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.
It has now come to the hands of bloggers and readers who know that small, meaningful, and collective actions are the ones that can move us further. I am putting the hope of 1500+ young children in the hands of social media and everyone reading this blog. Instead of just tweeting today, I am asking you to take it one step further by forcing policy makers into action from the comfort of your office seats, home couches, from your phones and in front of our computers.
WHAT ACTION CAN WE TAKE?
The above list is the ‘who-and-who’ from Zamfara State and the Ministers who should be doing something to save the people and future of this community. I am looking for the personal numbers, emails, addresses of these individuals so that we can collectively and directly reach them to save the children of Bagega.
These individuals are not ghosts: they are personally known to us. Some of you work with them, others are related to them, and some of you may have gone to school with their kids, cousins, or even live right on the same street with them. If you know or have access to any of these individuals, PLEASE send their contact to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will tweet it using the hashtag #SaveBagega so that we can do something about it.
Everyday that passes, is a day where experts sit with very expensive equipment waiting for government to give the green light. Children are dying so we can not afford to be nonchalant
I urge you to tweet, email, sms, broadcast, facebook post, re-blog and circulate this message in whatever form until government releases the funds to save this community.
The idea is to flood these complicit individuals with 1000+ of calls and sms/emails until they are forced into action. This is not impossible for us because if we can save Oke , Funmi, and organize a protest from social media, we can #SaveBagega today!
We did it! Not only did we crowd source 80% of the numbers, flood their emails and phones, but today 24th of January 2014, the chairman senate committee on environment got a signed commitment from the president on the immediate release of funds and he has gone off to visit Bagega. I have compiled storify links here and here so you can see the top community engagement. Well done everyone. I am exhausted and off to sleep!
SECOND UPDATE (JUNE 2012)
You can also read the Three Month Progress Report by follow the money to get a better understanding of the situation.