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Nigeria has the highest burden of fatalities from air pollution in Africa and 4th globally.

There is a silent rage of air pollution in Nigeria. The air quality is so bad it kills.

The air people breathe in Nigeria is more likely to cause harm than the air in any other country in Africa because Nigeria currently has the highest burden of fatalities from air pollution in Africa and the 4th highest in the world with 150 deaths per 100,000 people attributable to pollution.

 

According to the just released annual State of the Global Air Report published by the Health Effects Institute (HEI), air quality in Nigeria and at least 10 other countries is among the deadliest anywhere on earth with higher than ambient air pollution death rates as a result of the environmental hazards combined with extreme pollution sources like generator fumes, vehicle emissions and crop burning among others.

 

The HEI chart notes that there were 150 deaths per age-standardized deaths per 100,000 people attributable to air pollution in Nigeria in 2016 (the latest year of available data), compared to high industrialised countries like China, 117 deaths per 100,000 people; Russia, 62 deaths per 100,000 people; Germany, 22 deaths per 100,000 people; United Kingdom, 21 deaths per 100,000 people; the United States, 21 deaths per 100,000 people; Japan 13 deaths per 100,000 people and Canada, 12 deaths per 100,000 people. Only Afghanistan with 406; Pakistan, 207, and India, 195 deaths per 100,000 people per country, exceed the Nigerian figure.

 

In a number of the big Nigerian cities, when people present at the hospital with health problems including chest pain, dry throat, nausea, aggravated respiratory disease such as emphysema, bronchitis, lung damage, and asthma among other respiratory problems, it often turns out that they’ve been exposed to the effects of poor air quality.

 

But air pollution is not the only kind of pollution Nigeria accounts for, Hasan Alfarra in his article on ‘Water pollution in Nigeria’ states that Nigerian water bodies are affected by many of the – point and non-point – contaminants due to different

causes with significant impacts on the biosphere subsequently.

On the sides of Nigerian rivers are many scattered factories with direct sewer discharge and pollution parts as a point source of surface water pollution.

The list of pollutants in Nigeria is endless.

Unfortunately, on the topic of healthcare; Nigeria has one of the largest stocks of human resources for health (HRH) in Africa but, like the other 57 HRH crisis countries, has densities of nurses, midwives and doctors that are still too low to effectively deliver essential health services (1.95 per 1,000) [WHO 2018].

This inequity has been attributed to:

  • lack of public and private sector coordination;
  • commercial pressures in the private sector that lead to poor quality work;
  • work environments that contribute to low motivation, less-than-optimal productivity, high attrition – especially from rural areas; and
  • lack of planning based on staffing projection needs resulting in an overproduction of some categories of health workers and a lack of others

There are many contributing factors to the high rate of pollution in the country. Working to end this pollution would greatly improve health outcomes for the general population and reduce the burden on the health care system.

Dr. Rabia Salihu Sa’id, Professor of Atmospheric and Space-Weather Physics, at Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria identifies tackling air pollution specifically as key  “Breathing is life, and the quality of our life and wellbeing depends on the quality of the air we breathe,“

Here are the key ways in which air pollution can be reduced in Nigeria:

1. Reducing the number of vehicles on the road via the expansion of an efficient Bus Rapid Transit

  1. Increasing the usage of clean renewable energy sources, like solar power rather than relying on polluting generators
  2. Providing affordable alternatives to the usage of fireplaces and wooden stoves
  3. Enhanced solutions for the disposal /recycling of waste to reduce the burning of leaves, trash and other materials

Here are some simple actions you can take to keep the air around you clean:

  1. Share a ride or use public transport instead of driving
    2. Switch to solar power rather than using a generator
  2. Replace your wood stove with a clean and efficient cook stove
    4. Recycle unwanted items rather than burning

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