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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Climate change and health risks in Nigeria

Climate Change brings with it an increase in malnutrition, mental health conditions, infectious diseases spread and even death. Rising greenhouse gas levels are triggering climate and environmental changes that will affect human health in many ways. Climate Change is often thought of in terms of its effects on our physical environment: rising sea levels, heat-waves and storms. But increasing evidence shows that the human impact – and in particular the impact on human health will be a major challenge for scientists, politicians and ordinary people.

Dr Peter Tarfa, Director, Department of Climate Change (DCC) in the Federal Ministry of Environment

Recent problem is the issue of cholera which is one of the infectious diseases that remain a major health burden in Nigeria. Several incidences have raised concern that climate change may exacerbate the risk of the disease in the future. Future risk of this disease is essential, especially for regions where the projected climate change impacts, and infectious disease risk, are both large. Cholera is a growing threat, especially for those most vulnerable. Each year about 2.7 million people suffer from cholera, and about 90,000 of them die from this preventable disease. Those who become ill are often the most difficult to reach. Most are poor, live in conditions with poor water quality and sanitation, and often do not have access to treatment when they become ill.

According to the statement of UNOCHA NIGERIA, “the first cholera cases were identified in Borno State, north-east Nigeria, on 16 August, despite extensive efforts to improve sanitation conditions in camps and to raise awareness of the importance of best hygiene practices. The insurgency, and the efforts to quell it, has forcibly displaced 1.7 million people in north-east Nigeria, many of whom are living in dire conditions. To date, health partners have counted more than 3,300 confirmed and/or suspected cases and at least 53 cholera-related deaths. Health workers fear these numbers could rise exponentially because of poor water and sanitation conditions in many camps across the area.”

Many Nigerians are suffering the existing health threats and the emerging ones as a result of climate change. Climate change is intensifying with dimensions in age, economic resources, and location. Just recently, Minister of State for Environment, Usman Jubril mentioned in his interview with national television station NTA News “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.” But the climate we have come to expect is not what it used to be, because the past is no longer a reliable predictor of the future. Our climate is rapidly changing with disruptive impacts, and that change is progressing faster than any seen in the last years.

In conclusion, climate change is speeded up by increase in greenhouse gases plus the depletion of ozone layer which allows the penetration of ultra violet rays. Climate change or global warming causes sea level to rise and the consequences result in flooding from heavy rainfalls induced by precipitation, also from climate change. The deleterious effect of increase in disease like cholera and were implicated as the major health risks exacerbated by climate change. Societal illusion is underscored in this article as a nonchalant environmental habit that contributes to global warming in Nigeria.

As we know health care facilities are considered inadequate in developing economies and exacerbation of health risks in the event of adverse climate will occur. Government health policies should concentrate on providing medical care for cholera patients. Climate change mitigation is by reducing collectively on a global scale the emission of Co2 and greenhouse gases. Nigerian policy makers must be aware of the need to wipe away the prevailing illusion on avoidable bad environmental habits such as industrial pollutant, poor construction of drainages, gas emission from exhaust pipe, use of generator, deforestation, lack of good disposal, Use of firewood, poor maintenance of vehicle and use of perfume. There is need for heightened awareness among the general population on climate change and health risks. Community leaders, churches and mosques have relevant roles to play in guiding the people to understand climate change consequences.

Government in Nigeria could exploit the bond market to manage the consequences of climate change on Nigerian health infrastructure. Climate change can result in catastrophic health risks and further endanger the fragile social security’s system, if not strategically managed. Planting of trees and conscious effort to dissuade deforestation should be essential part of public discourse and policy.

By Olumide Idowu (Team Leader, Climate Wednesday; @OlumideIDOWU)

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