Kenyan Mother Wins Goldman Prize for Anti-Lead Protest After Her Own Breast Milk Made Baby Sick

As the world marks the 45th Earth Day, we speak to Kenyan activist Phyllis Omido, who was just awarded the Africa 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, the world’s most prestigious environmental award. Omido organized protests to close a lead plant in Mombasa, Kenya, that was exposing the community to toxic chemicals. Her son was one of those affected. She is the founder of the Center for Justice Governance and Environmental Action.

PHYLLIS OMIDO: Thank you for having me on the program. What we did – what I did, together with my colleagues, is that we mobilized the community to stand up for our right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, which is guaranteed in the Kenyan constitution, but we had realized that state was asleep at the wheel, and therefore we needed to challenge – we needed to challenge the state to ensure this right for the community of Owino Uhuru.


In Kenya, Phyllis Omido is guilty of inciting justice

Last week, Phyllis Omido, a community organizer in Mombasa, Kenya, received the Africa 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for her work inciting justice. Phyllis Omido has been combating toxicity in all its forms: chemical, environmental, cultural, political, economic. She has struggled and organized to transform sites of toxic elements into spaces of collective health and well-being.

In 2009, an iron-smelting factory opened in the densely populated Owino Uhuru slum of Mombasa. Solar energy is big in Kenya, and growing quickly. To meet the increased demand for lead coming from the solar industry, smelting factories have popped up, recycling car batteries in smelters. It’s big business.

The smelting factory in Mombasa hired Phyllis Omido as a community liaison officer. Her job included conducting an environmental impact study. Somehow, despite all sorts of regulations, they had opened without any such study. Meanwhile, Omido’s two-and-a-half year old child began suffering a series of ailments: nausea, sleeplessness, high fever, and more. Tests finally showed that Omido’s son, King David, was suffering from lead poisoning, which he’d contracted from his mother’s breast milk.

Sugary drinks may cause 184,000 global deaths a year: study

Sodas and other sugary drinks may cause up to 184,000 deaths a year worldwide, according to a study published Monday in the journal Circulation.

Billed as a first, the report analyzed the global risks of death due to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers linked to the consumption of sugary drinks.

Researchers estimated that around 133,000 people died from diabetes due to the consumption of what the report called “sugar-sweetened beverages.” Around 45,000 people died globally from cardiovascular diseases arising from sugary drink consumption and 6,450 people died from cancers linked to the beverages, researchers estimated.

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pyllis Omido is one mom who you don’t want to mess with. Nicknamed the “East African Erin Brockovich,” Omido is a Kenyan environmental activist who is best known for protesting lead pollution from a smelter Owino Uhuru, leading to its ultimate closure. In 2015, she won the Goldman Enviromental Prize in recognition of her work against toxic and nuclear contamination through the Centre for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action where she serves as founder and chief campaigner.

How did you decide to start the Centre for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action?

For years, I worked in community relations and prepared environmental impact reports. However, it was not until my son, King David, got sick as a baby that I realized the potentially lethal effects of lead poisoning in Mombasa. I began to campaign to shut down the local smelter, but it was not until I was wrongly arrested for organizing a demonstration in 2012 that I started thinking of starting an NGO. After I was arrested, I decided to register Center of Justice, Governance, and Environmental Action (CJGEA) because we were afraid that the police would insist that I was working illegally.