Zambia’s next government should urgently clean up lead pollution that has affected the health of tens of thousands of children and adults in the city of Kabwe, six organisations have said, following the publication of a United Nations experts’ letter on the issue.
Ahead of the general elections scheduled for August 12, 2021, organisations Human Rights Watch, Advocacy for Child Justice, Caritas Zambia, Children’s Environmental Health Foundation, Environment Africa Zambia, and Terre des Hommes, have urged President Edgar Lungu’s government to take urgent steps in addressing the toxic threat and ensure the health, safety, and well-being of Kabwe residents.
In 2020, human rights lawyers filed a class action suit against Anglo American on behalf of over 100,000 people in the Kabwe district who are believed to have been poisoned. The suit alleged that much of this toxic legacy stems from the five decades between 1924 and 1975 when the Kabwe lead mine was at least a partially-owned Anglo asset.
The claimants, mostly young children, are suffering from alarming levels of lead poisoning which, depending on various factors, causes a range of significant conditions. These include psychological, intellectual and behavioural damage, to serious and permanent physical damage to their organs, neurological systems and fertility. In extreme cases, serious brain damage and death.