Impact of Climate Change on Health in Nigeria    

By Ruth During
Climate change has become a great challenge to our generation and its impact is felt in almost every society in the world. Nigeria, as a developing country with a population of about 180 million, has been adversely impacted by climate change due to its vulnerability and low coping capability. Evidences have shown that climate change impacts on Nigeria arise from various climate change-related causes such as increase in temperature, rainfall, sea level rise, impact on fresh water resources, extreme weather events, flooding, drought in the north and increased health risk.
Nigeria is experiencing adverse climate conditions with negative impacts on the welfare of millions of people. Persistent droughts and flooding, off season rains and dry spells have sent growing seasons out of orbit, in a country dependent on rain-fed agriculture. Alarm bells are ringing with lakes drying up and a reduction in river flow in the arid and semi-arid regions. The result is fewer water supplies for use in agriculture, hydro power generation and for other uses. The main suspect for all this havoc is Climate Change.
Human health has always been influenced by climate and weather. Changes in climate and climate variability, particularly changes in weather extremes, affect the environment that provides us with clean air, food, water, shelter, and security. Climate change, together with other natural and human-made health stressors, threatens human health and well-being in numerous ways. Some of these health impacts are already being experienced in Nigeria and in most parts of the world.
There is no gain saying the fact that man depends on his environment for existence and sustenance such that man’s life is shaped by his environment and this underscores the need for the protection of the environment from all forms of degradation, especially those brought about by the activities of man.
Realising the significance and inevitability of the environment for survival of man, environmental experts have been arguing vociferously that without the environment man cannot exist since human activities are made possible by the existence of his environment.
Nowadays, environmental issues are receiving attention at global levels and the global communities are continuously making efforts towards ensuring that the world is a better place for human habitation. Of note in this regard is the CNN Television News Report of September 3rd, 2016 showcasing the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, by both the United States and China, which seeks to cut carbon emissions by half within the next fifteen years. This endorsement is significant because the USA and China are said to account for about 40% global carbon emissions.
Undoubtedly, the world continues to be under the threat of climate change problems like global warming, greenhouse gas effects, flooding, acid rain, typhoons, rising sea levels, rising sea temperatures resulting in depletion of marine organisms, earthquakes, wind storms, land and mud slides, desertification, tsunami, erosion, volcanic activities, hurricanes, pollution, deforestation among several others.
Climate change is principally a major problem caused by the increase of human activities, if you like; call it human mismanagement of the earth leading to several direct and indirect impacts on health. These climatic changes have wide-range harmful effects including; increase in heat-related mortality, dehydration, and spread of infectious diseases, malnutrition, and damage to public health infrastructure, migration of both man and animals, among others.
Nigeria, like other countries of the world, has its own experience of climate change disasters, such as the one that struck 25 years ago in the North-eastern region, presently comprising Borno and Yobe states. The southern part of Lake Chad, the section of the lake that lies inside Nigerian territory dried up.
About four decades ago, the Lake covered an area of over 40,000 square kilometers, whereas it now encompasses a mere 1,300 square kilometers. While the negative trend continues unabated, the land is laid to waste by rising temperature, leading to the rapid southward expansion of the Sahara Desert. Farmlands and surrounding villages have become barren because they were swallowed up by advancing desertification, which led to massive migration of people in search of more fertile terrain from the north east towards the greener plateau and middle belt regions.
Growing desertification forced thousands of Fulani herdsmen to move to the south and middle belt, leading to clashes with crop farmers that culminated in death of hundreds, according to the reports of residents and activists.
Nigeria’s Guinea Savannah region is not spared either. Logging and over dependence on firewood for cooking have stripped a greater part of this area of its vegetation cover. The situation is similarly replicated in the south, where the forest around Oyo has long been reduced to grassland.
The south – eastern part of the country has been struck by a different problem. There, gulley-erosion has devastated many settlements and farmlands, leading to poverty among local populations.
And, it doesn’t stop there. Just as desertification is devastating vast areas of the north, rising sea levels are threatening Nigeria’s coastal regions. Although a source of oil wealth, the Niger Delta’s low-lying terrain and waterways make it extremely vulnerable to flooding. Apart from being at the risk of rising sea level, it has fallen victim of extreme oil pollution.
Moreover, in southern Nigeria, climate change is also reflected in the massive flood experienced in 2012 and 2017, houses, farms, farm products, properties and even human beings were swept away. Also, statistics released few months ago by the southwest and north zonal offices of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) show that no fewer than 5000 persons were affected and 200 houses destroyed in windstorm and flooding which occurred in four states in the South–west and in five States in the North- central and North- eastern regions.
Negligence and a failure to tackle the issue of climate change by successive governments have also contributed to the rise of insurgency across the country. Against this backdrop, if appropriate preventive action is not taken and adaptation measures are not implemented in time, the results could be catastrophic.
No doubt, the need to preserve, protect and promote the environment constitutes a headache to many nations and dominate discussions and activities of government and non-government organisations across the globe. This is because the nature and prospects of the future are determined by the safety of the environment and this fact has increased the need for a healthy and functional plan to preserve and protect the environment.
Given that the impacts of climate change are projected to increase over the next century, certain existing health threats will intensify and new health threats may emerge. Connecting our understanding of how climate is changing with an understanding of how those changes may affect human health can inform decisions about mitigating (reducing) the amount of future climate change, suggest priorities for protecting public health, and help identify research needs.