Niamey, Niger (PANA) – Tibiri, a district 650 km east of Niamey now has clean and healthy water, but some 5,000 children who suffered bone malformations from drinking water with high fluoride content are still to get some form of compensation from the authorities.

Healthy water supply was restored to the area thanks to a 380- million franc cfa project, the bulk of which funding (300 million fcfa) was through Chinese cooperation.

From 1985 to 2000, 4,918 children aged 1-15 years got poisoned in Tibiri from drinking water supplied by the then state-owned water corporation (SNE) with abnormally high levels of fluoride. According to a study carried out in 2001 by the local health service, 486 children today suffer from bone malformations, while 4,018 others suffered tooth discoloration.

The water supplied Tibiri water had a fluoride content of 6.9 mg/litre whereas the maximum allowed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is 1.5 mg/litre.

“The first pathological signs appear between 2 and 3 years, with a strong fever followed by vomiting and convulsions, severe pain in the bones, a hypertrophy of the skull and a brownish colour of teeth,” said the director of the hospital at Maradi.

When the Niger Human Rights Association (ANDDH) raised alarm on the matter, the International Human Rights Federation (FIDH) despatched a fact-finding mission to the area in August last year, which presented its findings to Niger authorities.

FIDH president Sidika Kaba later called for legal proceedings on behalf of the victims.

“Complaints have been lodged sometimes against SNE, other times against the state of Niger, but the matter drags on,” the local Sahel Dimanche newspaper noted early this week.

UNICEF has also joined in pleading the cause of the victims.

“We believe that for the time being, the most urgent thing is to help towards the social reintegration of the victims,” the UN agency said.

UNICEF has set up a literacy centre where about 50 children are learning to read and write. It also plans to set up a workshop to train disabled children.

It has also provided assistance for the surgical operation of about 10 children.