This mission report by a team deployed by the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit (JEU) describes the findings of a sampling and analysis mission in Nigeria in September 2010.
In March 2010, an unusually high number of deaths, primarily among children under age five in Zamfara State, northern Nigeria, was reported to state health authorities by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). Further study of blood samples taken by MSF revealed that the increased mortality was the result of acute lead poisoning, caused by massive environmental contamination from artisanal mining and processing of gold found in lead-rich ore. In August 2010 the Ministry of Health of Nigeria officially requested JEU’s assistance for technical support. The JEU led a sampling and analysis mission in September 2010, focusing primarily on identifying lead pollution in the soil, ground and surface water. OCHA’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) provided US $2 million for this emergency, the first time that such funding was used for an environmental emergency. Findings showed drinking water from public wells was often not meeting the World Health Organization or Nigerian standards for lead limits; water in ponds was often polluted; high concentrations of mercury were measured in the air; and soil was highly polluted with lead.
Consult the mission report here.