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Côte d'Ivoire: 10 years after the toxic waste dumping, victims continue to live in fear and uncertainty

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19 August 2016

10th anniversary of the ‘Probo Koala incident’ - Friday 19 August 2016 - Ten years on, the survivors of illegal toxic waste dumping in Côte d’Ivoire remain in the dark

Author: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), (Switzerland)

Speaking ahead of the 10th anniversary of the illegal dumping of toxic waste in Côte d’Ivoire, a group of United Nations experts* urge the Ivorian Government, all responsible States and the international community to take this opportunity to address the ongoing human rights impacts of the incident. The UN human rights experts also call on Trafigura, the company behind the ‘Probo Koala incident’, to support this process by disclosing all the information it has about the contents and nature of the waste dumped in Côte d’Ivoire, and its likely ongoing health and environmental consequences. “On 19 August 2006, the cargo ship ‘Probo Koala’ discharged 500 tonnes or the equivalent of over twelve 20 shipping containers of toxic waste in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The hazardous substances, which belonged to...Trafigura, were later dumped at 18 sites around the city...According to official estimates, 15 people died, 69 people were hospitalized and over 108,000 others sought medical treatment after the so called ‘Probo Koala incident’. Ten years on, victims of the dumping and other residents in Abidjan remain in the dark about the ongoing dangers to their health. Residents still complain of the smell from the waste when it rains heavily, as well as headaches, skin problems and respiratory issues that they believe are linked to the incident. Many victims have not received an adequate remedy for the harms caused by the incident and report that they are have not been able to afford medical treatment notably after October 2006 when the relevant free medical treatment finished...We also urge the Ivorian authorities and the international community to take effective measures to protect the right to health and the right to a healthy environment of all victims and their families, including through free medical treatment for long-term health consequences and preventative measures for environmental threats...Trafigura to facilitate this process by disclosing all information it has about the contents and nature of the waste and its likely health and environmental impacts.”

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19 August 2016

Côte d’Ivoire: Trafigura unrepentant 10 years after toxic waste dump

Author: Amnesty International (UK)

Commodities giant Trafigura must come clean over the contents of toxic waste dumped in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire ten years ago, said Amnesty International today. Trafigura has never disclosed exactly what was in the 540,000 plus litres of toxic waste dumped at 18 sites in Abidjan on 19 August 2006. More than 100,000 people sought medical attention after the dumping for a whole range of symptoms including dizziness, vomiting and breathing problems, and authorities reported 15 deaths...“A decade on from one of the worst environmental disasters of the 21st century, Trafigura and governments alike have abandoned the victims to suffer a toxic legacy...Amnesty International and Greenpeace documented how Trafigura’s refusal to disclose the contents of the toxic waste hampered the clean-up and medical response to the disaster...Trafigura went on to claim that it had already disclosed the contents of the waste in UK court proceedings...[said that]...“the slops [waste] could at worst have caused a range of short term low-level flu like symptoms and anxiety”...victims had suffered a range of serious health issues, including respiratory problems, severe abdominal pain and digestive problems...“Failing to compel Trafigura to disclose the contents of the waste and investigate whether the commodities trader committed a grave environmental crime and human rights abuse sets a dangerous precedent. It sends the message that the bigger and more powerful a company is, the more immune it is to accountability,” said Lucy Graham.

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19 August 2016

Ten years after toxic waste dumping, victims in the dark

Author: Amnesty International (UK)

The dumping had a devastating effect on the people of Abidjan – in the next six months tens of thousands streamed into its hospitals and health centres suffering from symptoms like breathing difficulties, vomiting, headaches, weeping eyes, nosebleeds and skin lesions...The government built the health centre in Djibi in recognition of the significant impact of the dumping on the village. One doctor...said he thought it “likely that the entire population of that village were victims of the waste”...As we mark the 10th anniversary of the dumping, Djibi’s health centre symbolises the toxic legacy of this disaster. The clinic felt abandoned...Villagers told us it has no money to buy medication...Victims told us that they feel similarly abandoned. While Trafigura provided some compensation, many victims have not received any compensation. No one has ever checked-up on their health or assessed the potential long-term risks of the chemicals in the waste. Most still don’t know what was in the waste – to this day Trafigura has never disclosed the exact contents of the waste and its potential impacts. Abidjan residents believe the dumpsites have not been fully cleaned-up because they can still smell the waste when it rains heavily...At the government’s request and cost, the United Nations Environment Programme recently finished checking if all the dumpsites had been fully decontaminated...The government has also asked a local laboratory to check the health of all victims in Djibi village. But governments can and need to do more to support and reassure the victims – including finally compelling Trafigura to disclose the exact contents of the waste, checking the health of all people exposed to the waste and assessing and disclosing the potential long-term health and environmental risks.

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19 August 2016

Trafigura : A toxic journey

Author: Amnesty International (UK)

The toxic waste was finally dumped illegally in Côte d’Ivoire by a local company that Trafigura hired...On the night of 19 August 2006, lorries dumped the toxic waste in at least 18 locations in and around the main city of Abidjan. On 20 August 2006, the people of Abidjan woke up to the appalling effects of the dumping. Tens of thousands of people experienced a range of similar health problems, including headaches, skin irritations and breathing problems. Over 100,000 people sought medical assistance and extensive clean-up and decontamination was required. Côte d'Ivoire authorities also recorded about 15 deaths...Ten years on, due to a lack of action and information, the people of Abidjan are still in the dark about the extent of ongoing pollution and the long-term health impacts of the dumping. This has created a climate of fear and uncertainty. Trafigura has never disclosed exactly what was in the toxic waste...rafigura has also played down the toxic waste’s impact, saying that “the slops [waste] could at worst have caused a range of short term low-level flu like symptoms and anxiety”...In February 2007, Trafigura agreed to pay the Côte d’Ivoire government around US$200 million under a settlement agreement that granted Trafigura sweeping immunity from prosecution...Trafigura has never been properly held to account for its role in the actual dumping of the waste in Côte d’Ivoire. Many of those affected are still waiting for an adequate remedy and justice. In 2016, victims launched a new and as yet unresolved compensation claim against Trafigura in the Netherlands. Trafigura denies responsibility for the toxic waste dumping and maintains that it believed the local company would dispose of the waste safely and lawfully.

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18 August 2016

Commodities Giant Trafigura Accused of Abandoning African Toxic Legacy

Author: Sputnik News (Russia)

Dutch commodities giant Trafigura has been accused by Amnesty International of creating "one of the worst environmental disasters of the 21st century", after dumping toxic waste in Africa, although the company has told Sputnik it has "learnt its lessons"... Trafigura told Sputnik: "...Trafigura's involvement in this incident has been the subject of much comment (not all of it accurate), numerous Court decisions and final settlements... 

"Trafigura has expressed, and reiterates, its deep regret of the impact the incident had, both real and perceived. We have learnt from our experiences. Meanwhile the company has maintained its long-established commitment to Africa, creating jobs, paying taxes, building infrastructure, providing fuel and helping Africa to grow."

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