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Death Camps: Lead Poisoning Among Kosovo's Roma

Two journalists travel to Kosovo to explore the experiences of Roma families and how their children's health is affected by living in camps built on the biggest lead mine in Europe and next to a toxic slagheap of 100 million tons. The camps were set up by the UNHCR in 1999 as a temporary measure after the Albanians burned the Roma Mahalla in the dying days of the conflict over Kosovo.

The results have been severe. The lead poisoning blackens the children's teeth, destroys their memory, and stunts their growth. The children swing between bursts of nervous hyperactivity and something like a coma. Some have epileptic fits. Many children have begun a medical treatment known as "chelation" - to clear the lead from the blood - sponsored by the World Health Organization. But the success of the treatment depends on the children moving from the source of the pollution. Most have not. "Death Camps: Lead Poisoning Among Kosovo's Roma," tells the stories of the children, the aid workers, and what this ongoing problem says about international peacekeeping efforts.

Gypsy Families in Kosovo on Toxic Land

NORTH MITROVICA, Kosovo | No one seems to care about the gypsies.

Displaced by conflict and stranded by bureaucratic inertia, dozens of gypsy families remain on toxic land 10 years after they were relocated there by the United Nations after the Kosovo war.

Lead blackens the children's teeth, blanks out memories and stunts growth. Other symptoms of lead poisoning include aggressive behavior, nervousness, dizziness, vomiting and high fever. The children swing between bursts of nervous hyperactivity and fainting spells. Some have epileptic fits.

Kosovo's Roma People Struggle in Resettlement Camps

In 1999 following the NATO led bombing in the Kosovo region, the United Nations built resettlement camps for one of the wars overlooked people, the Roma. Two of these camps were built next to a toxic slagheap of 100 million tons of lead runoff. The hurriedly constructed barracks were also built with old painted lead boards. Today, ten years later, the people of Chesmin Lug and Osterrode camps continue to struggle with life and health.

Unless otherwise noted, photos and text credited to: Darren McCollester / Pulitzer Center

Gypsies Relocated by UN Remain on Toxic Land

NORTH MITROVICA, Kosovo — Displaced by conflict and stranded by bureaucratic inertia, dozens of Roma families remain on toxic land 10 years after they were relocated there by the United Nations following the Kosovo war.

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