Toxic wastes caused deaths, illnesses in Côte d’Ivoire – UN expert

Probo Koala

16 September 2009 – Evidence indicates that the dumping of toxic wastes caused over one dozen deaths and dozens of illnesses in Côte d’Ivoire in 2006, an independent United Nations human rights expert said today.

In August of that year, the cargo ship “Probo Koala” dumped 500 tonnes of toxic wastes, belonging to the Dutch commodity trading company Trafigura, at sites around the city of Abidjan, the West African nation’s largest city.

According to official estimates, 15 people died, 69 people were hospitalized and over 100,000 others, complaining of nausea and vomiting after inhaling fumes, sought medical treatment after the incident.

“We still don’t know – and we may never know – the full effthey continue to live in precarious conditions and their right to a healthy and safe environment continues to be violatedect of the dumping” of the wastes, said Okechukwu Ibeanu, the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes.

“But there seems to be strong prima facie evidence that the reported deaths and adverse health consequences are related to the dumping of the waste” from the Probo Koala, he added.

The expert has written a report after visiting both Côte d’Ivoire and the Netherlands to examine the impact of the dumping of dangerous wastes on the enjoyment of human rights.

He encouraged all parties involved to take steps “to address possible long-term human health and environmental effects of the incident.

“Further action should be taken to protect the right to life, the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to a healthy environment of all affected victims and their families.”

Last August, Mr. Ibeanu said the areas where the toxic waste was dumped still have not been decontaminated and continue to threaten the health of residents, with many Abidjan residents complaining of headaches, skin lesions, digestive difficulties and nose, throat and lung problems.

“The people of Abidjan need urgent assistance,” he said. “After two years, they continue to live in precarious conditions and their right to a healthy and safe environment continues to be violated.”

As a Special Rapporteur, Mr. Ibeanu serves in an unpaid capacity and reports to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.


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