A report by Human Rights Watch has revealed that lead exposure around a former lead and zinc mine in Kabwe is having disastrous effects on children’s health and is urging government to quickly clean up the contamination and ensure proper treatment for those in need.
The 88-page report, entitled “‘we have to be worried’: the impact of lead contamination on children’s rights in Kabwe, Zambia,” examines the effects of lead contamination in Kabwe on children’s rights to health, a healthy environment, education, and play.
The report indicates that 25 years after the mine closed, children living in nearby townships continue to be exposed to high levels of toxic lead in soil and dust in their homes, backyards, schools, play areas, and other public spaces.
The report states that the Zambian government’s efforts to address the environmental and health consequences of the widespread lead contamination have not thus far been sufficient, and parents struggle to protect their children.
Human Rights watch interviewed more than 100 residents of townships near the former mine, including the parents or guardians of 60 children who had been tested since the last government cleanup project ended and found to have elevated lead levels.
It found that government-run health facilities in Kabwe currently have no chelation medicine for treating lead poisoning or lead test kits in stock, and no health database has been established to track cases of children who died or were hospitalized because of high lead levels.
Further, Human Rights Watch found that the Kabwe mine’s waste dumps remain, exposing nearby residential areas to windblown lead dust and threatening community health while ongoing small-scale mining poses additional health risks.
The report is therefore urging the Zambian government to adopt a lasting and comprehensive plan to address the impact of lead contamination and should ensure it provides for long-term containment or removal of lead hazards and address the full scope of the contamination in affected areas, including homes, schools, health centers, and roads.