Life expectancy in Nigeria is now 47 years, making it the lowest among West African countries, Abdulsalam Nasidi, Project Director, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has said.
Mr. Nasidi, a professor of Human Virology and Biotechnology, stated this in a paper with the theme “Lead Poisoning: Zamfara Experience” presented in Gusau on Thursday at the commencement of the second Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the state’s chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA).
The professor said this position is 30 per cent below the world’s average life expectancy.
He said it is a situation that is attributable to some health factors, including child and maternal mortality, spread of polio virus and other epidemics.
“One out of every five children dies before the age of five years due to polio and other infections. Nigeria is one of four countries where polio is still an on-going epidemic,” the Project Director said.
Mr. Nasidi said in Zamfara alone, acute lead poisoning has killed more than 400 children and caused brain damage in several others in Anka and Bukkuyum Local Government Areas.
He described lead poisoning in the area as the “worst-ever recorded outbreak of its kind in modern times”.
The Project Director said mass lead poisoning and massive cholera epidemics are tragedies of the 19th century.
“This outbreak and our inability to interrupt polio virus transmission are serious indicators of the state of public health service in Nigeria,” he said.
Mr. Nasidi said a survey carried out in the affected areas of Zamfara in November 2010 revealed that more than 85 per cent of the soil had lead contamination. He said its spread was aggravated through heavy rainfalls.
Mr. Nasidi said blood samples of infected persons exceeded the US Environmental Protection Agency rate by three folds while some blood samples were as high as 100,000 parts per million. The Project Director said this occurred at Dogon Dajin Sarkin Noma village of Adabka ward in Bukkuyum local government area, killing 11 out of every 22 persons since September 2011.
He lamented that in spite of response measures through the collaborative efforts of the state and federal governments, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), illegal mining resumed in the area.
He therefore urged the federal and Zamfara governments to continue to join hands in order to save lives of the people living in the area.
Mr. Nasidi suggested that government should consider moving the population from the high risk areas as part of the remediation efforts on the affected areas.
Ibrahim Mallaha, the state’s acting governor, while declaring the conference open, had earlier urged the participants to come up with an acceptable framework to tackle environmental degradation in the state.
The acting governor assured of the state government’s readiness to partner with other agencies and foreign bodies in finding lasting solutions to the problems of illegal mining in the area.
The state chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Kabir Sada, commended the state government in ensuring the comfort of medical practitioners in the state.
“This had included the payment of all improved doctors’ salaries and other benefits,’’ he said.