Niger to compensate child fluoride victims

Niger is to pay out at least $3.5 million in compensation to hundreds of children of the central town of Tibiri who suffered deformities after drinking water with high fluoride content, state TV reported Sunday.

Local health authorities calculated back in 2001 that 4 918 youngsters suffered serious bone malformations after drinking the water which state water company SNE distributed between 1985 and 2000.

"We are going to pay. There is no reason for the government not to comply with a judicial ruling," Finance Minister Hassoumi Massoudou told parliament.

"There is no problem with resources to pay these young people," Massoudou said, adding "arrangements will be made for the ruling to be applied" though he did not say when the payments would be forthcoming.

A judicial ruling three years ago found that the victims in the region some 650km east of Niamey should be compensated.

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Massoudou said the government will "make available two billion CFA francs ($3.5 million) to compensate the Tibiri children who were victims 20 years ago of contaminated water."

Niger's Niger Human Rights Association (ANDDH) broke the scandal in 2000 after doctors highlighted a growing number of bone deformations of local children aged between 15 months and 15 years.

Symptoms included skull enlargement, convulsions, severe bone pain and fragility, as well as discoloured, reddish teeth.

An international study found that the local water had fluoride content of 6.9 mg per litre - more than four times the 1.5 maximum permitted by the World Health Organisation.

French group Vivendi bought SNE in 2001.

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