Wednesday 27 September 2017

Climate Change and Health: What is the Fate of Nigeria?


The numerous effects of Climate Change cannot be overemphasized, Chikwendu Chizurum Henry captures his thoughts in this article as seen on The News Nigeria.
Climate change has numerous adverse effects on human health and exacerbates health challenges. The certainty of climate change is sure because a lot of economic activities, as well as an increase in human population, have contributed in generating gaseous wastes thereby increasing anthropogenic carbon dioxide in our society.
The effects of climate change in Nigeria could include increasing temperature, rise in sea levels, intense and frequent severe weather events. As a result, this could lead to high water and food insecurity, exposure to heat stress on a greater dimension as well as ultraviolet rays, increased danger to coastal communities facing rising sea levels, and changes in infectious disease transmission patterns.
However, enough mitigation and adaptation measures could assist in curbing the potential hazards posed by climate change and protect public health as well as secure land and water resources in our communities.
The Statement ….
The Minister of State for Environment, Usman Jubril, asserted that “the effects of climate change are felt at every sight of the country. Rising global temperatures would have a catastrophic effect on human health and patterns of infection would change, with insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever spreading more easily”.
A medical Microbiologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Dr. Oyinlola Oduyebo, inferred that “there are some infections that occur in season, so naturally if there is a change in season or climate, there will have to be changes in the type of infections and in the manner they were originally known to occur”.
But what is Climate Change?
Climate change was defined by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 as “the change in the condition of climate that can be defined by changes in the average or variability of its property, and that continues to exist for a long period of time”. It is similarly called “global warming” according to an environmental protection organisation called Building National Response to Climate Change (BNRCC) in 2008.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also connects climate change to the changes in global mean temperature with resulting negative consequences such as severe weather conditions lasting for a long period of time, heightened intensity of storms, flood, drought, fire outbreak, earthquake, acid rain, and extreme burning heat.
Likewise, One World in 2010 describes climate change as a threat based on “advancing Sahara” and the coastal regions often having a flood. These two threats are presently having serious effects in Northern and Southern Nigeria respectively.
In in the other hand, the world health organization (WHO) in 1990 describes the negative effects of global warming as the most urgent problem of the 21st century. But the global climate system is the basis for supporting continuity of life and human existence.
The Nigerian Experience
Nigeria thrives on two important sectors, namely agriculture and petroleum, which makes the country highly prone to the consequences of climate change. The perfect scenario is this:
The country thrives in buying and using of fairly used vehicles from foreign countries and these cars emit a high amount of carbon into the atmosphere causing air pollution, especially in the urban areas. Gasoline is produced when engine oil is added to petrol as can be seen with motorcycle riders and gasoline generator users in Nigeria – this produces more carbon.
In addition to these issues is gas flaring. The worst case scenario is the inadequate and erratic power supply by electricity distribution companies which has compelled citizens to use diesel or fuel power generators which release large quantities of carbon into the atmosphere.
In rural communities, the major activities that contribute to climate change include bush burning, illegal deforestation, – these expose the soil to direct scorching of the sun which dries up micronutrients in the soil and lowers or totally inhibits plant growth.
Disposal of refuse in a reckless manner and other activities that expose farmlands, residences and the atmosphere to degradation also contribute to climate change. Nigeria should, therefore, prepare for more devastating effects of climate change which could lead to increase in the cases of illness and death.
Nigeria like any other nations of the world has experienced the disasters of climate change in varying degrees such as the dried up of southern-part of lake chad and the north-eastern states of Borno and Yobe over 25 years back. Presently, the havoc is still being wrecked in the Lake Chad area of the country where there is a massive drying up of the Lake Chad basin.
You can imagine that after about 40 years ago, the Lake Chad which covered over 40,000 square kilometers previously is now covered by 1,300 square kilometers per metre. This ugly trend has continued all along without mitigation for such a long time, while the land is laid to waste by the increasing temperature which leads to rapid expansion of Sahara desert to the south.
Consequently, villages and farmlands in that region have become unproductive and are at the mercy of increasing desert encroachment which has forced people of that region to massively migrate to the greener plateau and middle belt regions in search of more fertile areas.
The effects of increasing desertification in the north-eastern part of Nigeria has compelled many Fulani herdsmen to move to the south and middle belt leading to attendant clashes with farmers in that region resulting in the death of thousands of farmers and innocent citizens.
What about the south-west region? It is not spared either! Wood logging and excessive dependence on firewood for cooking have taken the greater part of that region devastating its vegetative cover and reducing it to a mere grassland.
The south-eastern Nigeria has witnessed the debilitating effects of heavy gully erosion which has destroyed many settlements, homes, and farmlands, culminating to hardship and hunger.
The coastal oil region of the country is no exception at all. It is faced with rising sea level. With the low-lying terrain and many waterways crossing each other, the region is vulnerable to flooding and has fallen victim of severe oil pollution.
Also, in the southern part of Nigeria, climate change wrought havoc in the massive flood experienced over five years ago where houses, properties, farms, infrastructures, and even human lives were swept away. In the south-west, about 5,000 lives were affected while many houses were destroyed in a windstorm that happened about two years ago.
Presently, Nigeria has witnessed and is still soaked in heavy and massive flooding taking place in almost all the southern states of the country.
Is Climate Change an Illusion in Nigeria?
The attitude of an average Nigerian towards the effects of climate change on our health seems to be regarded as transcendental and not likely to pose a challenge as there is an illusion following its origin. A casual observation of the living lifestyle in Nigeria such as dumping of refuse in drainages and canals, generating of CO2 by burning refuse in urban centres, buying of second-hand vehicles, waste disposal and massive use of electric generators show a low level of understanding of the negative effects of climate change to human health.
The presence of illusion can widely be seen in Lagos state where residents have the tendency to dump refuse in water drainages and build houses illegally to block drains. The recent flood experienced in that city was as a result of this phenomenon. However, illusion requires an empirical assessment to tackle the basic issues that are contributing to climate change.
In fact, the illusion is a nonchalant environmental attitude that contributes to global warming in Nigeria.
Implications of Climate Change on Human Health in Nigeria
The implications of climate change on our health could be direct as well as indirect. The direct implications of climate change in Nigeria include skin cancer, malaria, cholera, cerebra-spinal meningitis, high blood pressure, and increase in heat-related mortality, and cardiovascular respiratory issues in the aged generation. However, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2005 regarded dangers to the child and maternal health as part of the consequences of climate change.
The dangers of indirect consequences of climate change on the health of Nigerians include increased morbidity rate brought about by worsening of old and new health risks affecting large organs of the body including skin cancer, influenza, high blood pressure, psychosis, and neurosis.
In the midst of all these implications, consequences and challenges of climate change, there is hope! It is heart-warming that President Muhammad Buhari has signed the Paris Agreement on climate change, though it is yet to be ratified by the National Assembly.
What Nigeria MUST Do
Generally speaking on the negative effects of climate change on the health of Nigerians…
It is vital that the government of the day mitigates these challenges by enlightening the populace about the need to appreciate and practice mitigation and adaptation. Adaptation reduces the impact of climate change on human health and natural systems, while mitigation reduces potential greenhouse gas emissions.
Nigeria should as a matter of urgency, protect the remaining rainforest in Cross River State as a means of mitigating climate change.
The country should facilitate sustainable use of energy and environmental protection.
The citizens must plant trees and cash crops such as cocoa and kola nuts – engaging in afforestation, using local technical skill to boost government efforts such as using sawdust and palm nut shaft to make fire instead of kerosene.
Individuals are expected to eat more of fruits and vegetables and drink water regularly.
Raising awareness of the challenges of climate change to our health which is presently at low ebb especially among the most vulnerable groups such as children, women, and the aged population particularly resident in the rural areas.
Healthcare facilities are inadequate in developing economies. So, the government should articulate health policies that should concentrate on providing medical care for diseases identified to increase possibly to a catastrophic level such as malaria, pneumonia, cholera, and meningitis.
Nigerian policymakers should strive to wipe away the prevailing illusion on avoidable bad environmental attitudes such as using of industrial pollutant, poor construction of drainages, use of generator, deforestation, use of firewood, use of perfume, poor vehicle maintenance, lack of proper waste disposal, and gas emission from the exhaust pipe.
Nigeria needs to formulate sound policies, legislation, regulations, and standardization framework in order to pursue green growth and resources-saving society.
Furthermore, Nigeria should facilitate the improvement of technological systems and scientific research for energy optimization and recycling technologies in order to develop appropriate incentive policies and laws to attract investment and develop new tools as well as mechanisms to guide and provide sustainable consumption options.
About 30% of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) may be lost by 2050, if drastic measures are not put in place to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, according to Dr. Temidayo Apata, an Agricultural Economist at Joseph Ayo Babalola University.
Bottom Line
Climate change can result in deadly health risks and further endanger the fragile social security’s system of Nigeria. Therefore, the government and other policymakers should implement the recommendations prescribed above in a well-coordinated manner in order to rescue the environment and produce a healthy Nigeria which we all will be proud to call our country.
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