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APHA Scientific Session and Event Listing

Niger Delta: Case study in human rights and public health effects of oil companies' exploration

Dee Burton, PhD, Urban Public Health Program, School of Health Sciences, Hunter College, City University of New York, 425 E. 25th Street, Rm 923-West, New York, NY 10010, 212-481-4345, deeproject@aol.com and Vincent Idemyor, PharmD, College of Health Sciences, University of Port Harcourt, Visiting Professorship Program, Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

This case study details oil companies' exploration of the Niger Delta in 50 years and describes how human rights and public health effects are intertwined. The fourteen ethnic groups of the Niger Delta lived by fishing and farming until 1958 when Shell began drilling oil. Today, oil exports, via Shell, Chevron-Texaco, and Exxon-Mobil, comprise 98.5% of Nigeria's total exports, and a dwindling percentage of the Niger Delta peoples are able to live off the ravaged land and polluted waters. At the same time, an understanding between the oil companies and both the Nigerian and United States governments has ensured that revenues are not shared equitably with the Niger Delta residents. It has been estimated that half the 20 million residents are destitute. Malnutrition, illiteracy, and unemployment characterize the region today. Efforts at community mobilization to protest the environmental devastation and inequitable distribution of oil revenues have been met with lethal force from Nigerian security personnel, often working in consort with oil companies. As the residents' lives have worsened, violent conflicts among the ethnic groups of the region have followed. And the escalating and extreme poverty has been accompanied by the spread of HIV/AIDS, now more prevalent in the Niger Delta region than anywhere else in Nigeria. This case study concludes with a discussion of the accountability of the United States government in the exploitation of the Niger Delta, and strategies which public health professionals can use to encourage the U.S. government to modify its practices via its oil companies.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant will be able to

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No

Human rights and Public Health: International Perspectives

The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA