Dutch NGO wins UN award for saving children
The Dutch arm of the international Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF Holland or Artsen zonder Grenzen has won a prestigious United Nations award. The 2011 Green Star Award was bestowed on the humanitarian NGO for its emergency response to victims of lead poisoning in Nigeria at a ceremony today in Bern, Switzerland.
MSF Holland’s most recent environmental emergency action began in the northern Nigerian state of Zamfara in March 2010, and is still ongoing. MSF has treated more than 1,000 children for lead poisoning. It is one of the most serious cases of acute heavy metal poisoning ever recorded.
“MSF welcomes the Green Star Award. It offers an opportunity to continue highlighting this environmental health crisis,” said MSF Emergency Manager Lauren Cooney, who accepted the award on behalf of the organisation. MSF Holland’s action focused particularly on young children younger than five years old, who are more vulnerable to the symptoms of poisoning.
The lead poisoning results from the processing of gold ore. Gold seekers break the stone into pieces and collect the gold pieces with tools used to harvest grain or cooking utensils, exposing people to toxic levels of lead found in the ore.
Ms Cooney stressed the need for more follow-up action needed in the treatment of victims. “MSF again calls for more assistance with the vital, ongoing response to lead poisoning in northern Nigeria. There are limits to what we can do as an emergency aid organisation.”
Five other organisations or individuals received prizes alongside MSF Holland, including one to a US academic for her research work on making houses safer during earthquakes. One award was posthumous – Linda Norgrove died in a rescue attempt after she was kidnapped in Afghanistan last October.
The Green Star Award is presented every two years to individuals, organisations or donors who have stood out in their response to global environmental emergencies by the UN Environment Programme.
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