Climate change has adverse effects on human health as well as worsens health risks. Without doubt climate change amplifies health risks, and can increase morbidity rate to dangerous levels. In this article, we take a look at the effects of climate change on health in Nigeria. Some of the health problems due to climate change include high risk of communicable and non-communicable diseases, an outbreak of epidemics, and scarcity of water. From our findings, we recommend the introduction of stiff penalties for improper waste disposal, and deforestation, as well as creating awareness campaign for climate change and health risks.
The gradual heating of the earth due to green house gases (GHGs) is referred to as global warming. This is generated from human activities. The gradual heating leads to climate change that is affecting the environment and health of the people.
Climate change was defined by IPCC (2007) Fourth Assessment Report as “change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. by using statistical test) by changes in mean and/or variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period typically decades or longer.
These changes could have an impact on the environment which gives rise to flooding, drought, change in rainfall pattern, rise in sea level, coastal flooding, environmental pollution, soil degradation, earthquake, hurricane, mud slide etc.
The results of climate change are fiercer weather lasting for longer cycles; extreme scorching heat, precipitation of rainfall, increased intensity of storms, hurricane, floods, droughts, outbreak of fire, induces earthquake, acid rain, and indirectly connected to malnutrition and poverty. Climate change creates overwhelming problems for an already impoverished populace.
Climate change sets in as a result of global warming which is caused by the GHG emission viz; carbon dioxide, methane, Nitrous acid, fluorinated gases etc. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere.
These gases are emitted during the agricultural and industrial activities, burning of fossil fuel, cooking with fire wood, electrical appliances, burning of refuse, flared gas and the other industrial processes e.g. the manufacturer of cement at the combustion of fossil fuel and solid waste.
Deforestation that removes trees and vegetation covers which serve as carbon sink is another activity that causes global warming.
World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of infirmity. Climate change impacts human health in many ways.
The enjoyment of the optimum standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being; however, most people residing in third world countries like Nigeria do not enjoy these because of climate change effect on health and environment.
The health of an individual is influenced by a wide range of social economic and life style factor, access to high quality and affordable health care and public health services.
Climate change has the following impact on health:
This affect health as high air temperature contributes directly to death from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among elderly people. High temperature also raises the level of pollutant in the air that worsens cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Urban air pollution causes about 1.2 million deaths every year. Pollen and other aeroallergen levels are also higher in extreme heat. These can trigger asthma, which affect 300 million people. Ongoing temperature increases are expected to increase the burden.
Climate change is a factor that can increase the frequency and severity, (i.e. probability) of ill health. Climate change might accentuate health risks and morbidity rate. Findings indicate that there is a correlation between climate change and mortality rates particularly high temperatures and death of the elderly. This is because the elderly suffers from physiological responses and often are unable to increase their cardiac output sufficiently during extreme hot weather.
Moreover, health is endangered when ambient temperature becomes so high that it affects the central nervous system, might influence increase in high blood pressure. The penetration of ultra violet rays causes skin cancer and we reason that the foetus in pregnant women is at great risk if they are exposed to high level ultra violet rays as ozone layer continue to be depleted.
Rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather event will destroy home, medical facilities and other essential services. Increasingly variable rainfall pattern are likely to affect the supply of fresh water. Lack of fresh water affect hygiene and increase the risk of diarrhea and cholera diseases.
Floods are also increasing in frequency and intensity, flood contaminated fresh water supplies, heighten the risk of water borne diseases, and create breeding ground for disease carrying insect such as mosquito. Flood also causes drowning and physical injuries, damage homes, disrupt the supply of medical and health services.
Flooding is a consequence of climate change from sea level rise and poor infrastructural planning of drainage system. For example, the southern part of Nigeria is prone to flooding, and in particular, Lagos state, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria is noted to be one meter above sea level, is threatened with possible extinction. The health risk implication could be deduced to include direct water borne diseases like typhoid, cholera, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.
Furthermore, the incidence of flooding in some states across the nation displaced a lot of people as refugees, predisposing them to infections and malnutrition. These have caused so many disasters which resulted to serious health problems.
Climate change is speeded up by increase in human release of Co2 and other green house gases which makes earth warmer. Climate change or global warming cause sea level to rise and the consequences result in flooding from heavy rainfalls induced by precipitation, also from climate change. The health effect of increase in ambient temperature, from our analysis, is significant increase in morbidity rate in Nigeria. Four diseases; cholera, meningitis, malaria and pneumonia were implicated as the major health risks worsened by climate change.
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