Today, June 1, International Children’s Day, parents in the Kazakhstani village of Berezovka sent inquiries to the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law asking for help. This was discussed today at a press conference held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, by the Coalition, Children or Oil?
Twenty five children from Berezovka were seriously injured following an accident at the Karachaganak oil and gas condensate field on November 28, 2014, and have not received any treatment from the government of Kazakhstan or from the company that caused the accident. The children’s symptoms include convulsions, seizures, and headaches, among others. Since November, their health has not improved; some of them even feel worse. At the same time, according to parents and school administrators in the town Aksai, to which the families were relocated from Berezovka last year, did not call an ambulance for the children when they fell ill at school. The children were sent home directly after they regained consciousness without any medical help. Often times, help was provided only by classroom teachers and fellow classmates.
Ayman Zhumagazieva, the mother of one of the severely affected girls, said that her daughter has convulsions 1-2 times a month. The son of Aigul Uralbaeva also keeps having severe attacks, seizures and headaches. The daughter of Karlygash Sapieva suffers from the same issues. Using her own money, Svetlana Voskoboy took her daughter for a medical examination in Saratov, Russia, where Russian experts warned her that if the child did not receive immediate treatment for toxic poisoning, there could be serious complications, including paralysis. Three children whose parents took them to Moscow for examination in the summer of 2015 were diagnosed with “toxic poisoning of the brain.” Those children received treatment at the Children’s Semashko Center and are already feeling better. However, the doctors warned that the treatment should be long-term, and in some cases would include very costly blood transfusions and other treatments.
When taken to state run clinics in Kazakhstan, many of the children received diagnoses that are unrelated to toxic poisoning. Misdiagnosed, they do not receive appropriate treatment, without which many of these children may become disabled due to brain damage. “We are not asking for millions, we ask for enough money to take our child to a normal doctor. We want to know, is it curable or not?” says Svetlana Voskoboy.
In March 2016 the parents met with Marat Tusupkaliev, the mayor of Burlin district, West Kazakhstan Region, to request aid for the children. The meeting was attended by the mayor of Berezovka, representatives of the Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV (KPO) consortium, and representatives of the emergency services and the Aksai District Hospital. As Ayman Zhumagazieva notes, Marat Tusupkaliev talked with the parents in a raised voice and avoided talking about the children, suggesting that the apartments the families received during their relocation to Aksai should be sufficient compensation. Earlier, according to Svetlana Voskoboy, parents asked for help directly from KPO. KPO replied that the company was not engaged in charity work.
“In fact, the entire younger generation of Kazakhstani citizens has been diagnosed with Berezovka. No one in this country cares about these children, who have suffered because of the business interests of the elites and who may be affected in the future,” says Sergey Solyanik, consultant for Crude Accountability and co-coordinator of the Children or Oil? coalition.
On November 28, 2014, 25 students in Berezovka fainted, had strong seizures, dizziness, blood pressure surges, and severe headaches. After a year and a half, the children continue to be sick and the number of poisoned children is growing.
The Children or Oil? Coalition asks the Kazakhstani authorities and the companies that comprise the KPO consortium: BG Group, Chevron, Eni, Kazmunaigaz, and Lukoil , which operates the Karachaganak fieldto take responsibility for the tragedy, to recognize that there was toxic poisoning as a result of the accident at the field, to provide medical examinations and treatment to the children of Berezovka and to pay them compensation for damage to their health.