29 Mar 12 28 Nov 16

Nigeria: Lead Poisoning of Children

In early 2010, cases of lead poisoning in children and adults were confirmed in five villages in Zamfara state, north western Nigeria.

This is the worst lead poisoning disaster in recorded history, having killed approximately 400 children in 2011 alone.




The soil in many villages in the state of Zamfara is contaminated by lead-heavy ore dust. The contamination is a consequence of villagers practicing small-scale artisanal gold mining from ore containing lead.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the blood lead ‘level of concern’ is 10 mcg/dl. Tragically, 96% of the children screened in Zamfara had much higher levels of lead in their blood than this, with many above 100 mcg/dl.

Our Response

Since early June 2011, MSF, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) has provided emergency treatment for most vulnerable groups affected, including children under 5 and breast feeding mothers.

We are providing chelation therapy using the drug DMSA which increases the excretion of lead through the kidneys.
So far we are providing treatment to 2,000 children and we have thousands more children waiting to start treatment once their villages have been decontaminated.

To prevent a disaster of this scale from recurring in the future, we are working with TerraGraphics Environmental Engineering and Artisanal Gold Council to clean-up contaminated soils, villages and environments, and implement safer mining procedures in Zamfara.  



Each capsule of DMSA costs a minimum of €3.

It costs approximately €520 to treat each child (dependent on the length of treatment required).  

We are aiming to treat 3,800 children in 2012.

Can you help us provide this lifesaving treatment?

We are seeking funding to cover the cost of the medication for this project. To make a donation specifically to this project, please call 01 660 3337 and ask to speak to Gareth (Fundraising Manager, MSF Ireland).

Click here to read an account of MSF Ireland team member Gareth Shaw’s visit to Zamfara in the summer of 2011.

find out more about msf's work in nigeria