BEYOND RELIGION AND CULTURE: You were one of my mentors without us having any bodily contact. You put my mental horizon in flames with your numerous speech and I went gaga searching for a place I could occupy in the world just as you did in the course of liberating Cuba from the grip of Western influence. Oh! What has a beginning must have an end. But I’m graciously happy you did not end the way the USA wanted you to end, after she made 50 failed attempts to rip off your life. How I wish there would be you somewhere to let me tap into the secret of how you escaped the dastardly assassination plots.
Pa Fidel Castro, you ended very well at a ripe age. You passed this world and did not go unnoticed. May such be my fate. I will be missing you. But let me take solace in one of your famous treatises, “History will consume me”. Indeed, your history will never die like the phoenix. Bye, Bye, the once strong man of Cuba.
–Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Consultant based in Rivers State.
In this report, Odimegwu Onwumere writes that climate change is impacting on the health of Nigerians, suggesting that the authorities have to put the right measures in place to handle its effects through research and enlightenment
Ngozi is a lady in her middle 20s and was a pump attendant at a newly built filling station along the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway by Imo River Bridge, Uzuaku, Abia State.
She was curious to earn a living, but could not bear with the brunt of weather conditions as a result of climate change at her once job place. She was falling ill at every given point in time while her job lasted.
“When it rained, the downpour was usually heavy, making the expressway not to be pliable. Likewise, when it was dry, dust that vehicles raised was unbearable,” Ngozi lamented.
She told this writer that she was always sick when she was working at the filling station, perhaps, due to petrol emission or something, unlike now she is at home. Ngozi was afraid that something was wrong with the ozone layer. “I was always falling sick while at my duty post. I’m not yet okay. The weather was not favourable to me because of the openness of the filling station,” she said.
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.
As a panelist on a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme, the Minister of State for Environment, Usman Jubril, said recently, “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.”
Dr. Oyinlola Oduyebo, a medical microbiologist at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, said: “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 that there were originally known to occur.”
Mr. Kolawole Ajanaku, Head of Department of Environmental Services, Ikeja Local Government Area (LGA), Lagos State, was afraid in a public presentation, saying: “Change in temperature could bring a lot of environmental problems. When sunlight reaches earth’s surface, it can either be reflected back into space or absorbed by earth. Once absorbed, the planet releases some of the energy back into the atmosphere as heat (also called infrared radiation).
“Greenhouse gases like water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4) absorb energy, slowing or preventing the loss of heat to space. In this way, GHGs act like a blanket, making earth warmer than it would otherwise be.
“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 2,000 year.”
Ngozi is one among many Nigerians who are sick as a result of the impact of climate change. The impacts of climate change cannot be overemphasised as they are affecting people physically and mentally, with scientists at the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying that the earth’s middling temperature has risen to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) over the past century.
“All pathogens, viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites are temperature-sensitive. Furthermore, they have differences in how they reproduce and they infect people and other animals based on the temperature they are living at,” said an Associate Director of the Centre for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard University, Dr. Aaron Bernstein.
The Director, Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Joseph Alozie, who was also a panelist on the NTA programme, bared his fears, “From 2015-2016 research shows a reduction in rainfall, which will bring about shorter length of season thereby affecting farmers making them choose which seed variety to plant.”
Alozie added, “There will be further dry spells especially in the northern part of Nigeria. Since November 2015 Nigerians have witnessed drier conditions, stronger Harmattan even in Abuja a lot of dust is in suspension and flights have been cancelled, suspended and even delayed.”
The causative factors of illnesses are related to flooding, weakened infrastructure like the over flooded Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway, depleted agricultural production, destroyed livelihoods, pollution, and forced migration.
“The negative impacts of climate change such as temperature rise, erratic rainfall, sand storms, desertification, low agricultural yield, drying up of water bodies and flooding are real in the desert prone 11 front states of Nigeria. This leads to increasing population pressure, intensive agricultural land use, overgrazing, bush burning, extraction of fuel wood and other biotic resources.”
Prof. Fuwape Agboola of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, made the above disclosure early this year during the opening ceremony of the fourth biennial international conference and exhibition on environmental matters (ICEI4) organised by Environmental Research Group of the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, in juxtaposition with the Centre for Atmospheric Research of the National Space Research and Development Agency (CAR-NARSDA), Anyigba, Abuja.
“Temperatures are projected to rise from 2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.13 to 6.42 degrees Celsius) over the next 100 years,” Agboola added.
There is apprehension that women and children are chiefly the most vulnerable to the forces of climate change. Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated the costs to health from climate change to be linking US$ 2-4 billion per year by 2030, across the world. When this is the case, Nigerians like Ngozi who do not make up to $1 a day, would be tremendously dealt with by climate change due to their exposure to chronic poverty.
Climate change is affecting agricultural produce seriously. Agricultural economist like Dr. Temidayo Apata at Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ikeji-Arakeji, was among those in this line of thought. Against this backdrop, Nkechi Isaac, a public affairs commentator cried out, “Nigeria is vulnerable to the impact of global warming on many fronts of her geography, climate, vegetation, soils, economic structure, population, energy demands and agricultural activities.
“The country’s large rural population depends on agriculture, fisheries and natural resources such as water, biodiversity and grassland. The adaptive capacity of the rural majority to climate change is very low. The operation of the nation’s oil and gas sector makes Nigeria a major emitter of greenhouse gases in Africa.”
Apata remarked recently that Nigeria is experiencing higher temperatures and when there is poor turnout of agricultural produce, there is bound to be malnutrition. The agricultural economist brought into line, fears to the flooding that ravaged the Niger Delta region in 2012, where households and millions of property were destroyed to the flooding, as one of the climate change impacts threatening the country.
With this, Apata predicted that 30 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) may be lost by 2050, if severe moves are not taken to put modalities in place in order to dwarf the bad effects of climate change. In the same line, the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, feared that there are natural disasters in the country resulting from weather change.
.Onwumere writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR THE RECORDS: I was among the 23 finalists out of about 100 entries for THE 2016 PAN-AFRICAN RE/INSURANCE JOURNALISM AWARDS, as relayed by Dr Femi Oyetunji, Group Managing Director/CEO, Continental Reinsurance PLC, at the awards finale held at Eden Bleu Hotel, Eden Island, Seychelles.
I did not know that I was a finalist till date in the awards that were since held on Thursday, 21st April. Although, I did not emerge winner, but being chosen as a finalist in a journalism contest that was open for journalists across Africa, shows that I’m not doing badly in my chosen career.
It shows that I’m contributing in making our world a better place with journalism. I’m grateful and have a hope that tommorrow will be better than today.
In this report, Odimegwu Onwumere writes that some households can no longer take absolute care of their children living with cerebral palsy or stigmas associated with the condition
Air Vice-Marshall Femi Gbadebo (Rtd) has a 20-year-old son who is suffering from cerebral palsy (CP). “Having managed my son’s condition for quite some time and travelled extensively around the world, I came to the conclusion that something is fundamentally wrong with the way disability is being managed in Nigeria,” Gbadebo said. Whereas there were speculations by Nigerians of families doing away with their CP children, the love for his son moved Gbadebo and his Benola Cerebral Palsy Initiative recently, for a walk in Lagos to sensitise families about CP.
“Despite the fact that cerebral palsy is also prevalent in children, it is sad to note that there is no specific date dedicated to mark the event by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” he said.
Gbadebo harangued that about 17 million people are passing through CP around the world. It is believed that where there is a CP patient, the household is affected, especially in Nigeria where the healthcare is unsatisfactory. Specialists define CP as a physical disability that affects movement and posture.
“Asphyxia is a situation whereby a child is delivered and is unable to initiate spontaneous breathing. Unexpected events in the womb and unexpected events at the time of delivery could also lead to the malformation of the brain,” said Dr. Denis Shatima, Paediatric Neurologist, Abuja.
For Mrs. Joan Obieke, Assistant Director, Physiotherapy Department, National Hospital, Abuja, “This commonly attacks children and young adults in the most productive years of their lives, frequently leading to unemployment. This complicates the problems of the afflicted and the family that relies on their financial support.’’
Checks revealed that when some of the households can no longer bear the pains of taking absolute care of the child or stigmas associated with the condition, they do away with the child.
Speaking while fielding questions to journalists on the issue in Abuja, early this month, Mrs. Kawan Aondofa Anjira, the Founder of SEEDOO Initiative, a group that sees to children with special needs, said, “Children born with cerebral palsy (CP) are killed every day in Nigeria, whereas they should deserve a right to survive.”
Consultant paeditrician, Prof Afolabi Lesi was worried that no fewer than 700,000 children had cerebral palsy in Nigeria, while speaking at the maiden National Cerebral Palsy (CP) family forum organised by a CP initiative, Benola, Lesi, Dean of Clinical Sciences at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), 2013.
“60 to 80 per cent of such children would have co-morbidities such as seizures and intellectual disabilities, among others,” said Lesi.
It’s noted that the successive Nigerian governments have not slept on their oars while children with the CP deformity perish; but the governments have not done much.
A state like Lagos early 2013 showed unwavering interest to have cerebral palsy centre in Lagos. Investigation showed that supportive therapies such as physiotherapy and speech therapy for CP children are challenging with dearth of therapists in the country and government has been lukewarm to subsidise cost for the appellation of parents.
Against this backdrop, many people still believe that CP has something to do with impure spirits, hence they refuse to take care of CP children.
“This is because many people do not go to the hospital, where they could be told what exactly is wrong with a CP child and how the child could be attended to,” said Anjira.
The walk organised by the Benola Cerebral Palsy Initiative to sensitise the masses in Lagos, said that people need appropriate education and wakefulness of neuro-medical deformities.
Arguing that the mindset of Nigerians must change if cerebral palsy would be ultimately defeated, Gbadebo said, “We need to get the Federal Government and the private sector involved in this fight. I believe that it is ignorance that gives rise to the fear and stigma associated with disabilities in this country.
“We came up with a decision to do something different by educating the public and embarking on capacity building, especially for those involved in the care and management of disabilities. Last year, we had about 500 participants at the inaugural walk. This year, our target was 1000.”
Although, the experts warn that meals for such children should be designed with the help of a dietician; without this, wrong diets may be given to such children or make them malnourished. A leading voice on CP treatment said, “Home based mortality and rehabilitation services should be provided by physiotherapists and caregivers.
“Recreational activities can be provided at home usually in conjunction with the siblings and other children. Modification of the home in order to soothe the daily life and easy movement of a child with cerebral palsy is very important. Modification of vehicle for easy transportation may also be necessary.”
In a public presentation, those in this line of thought blamed the government of not helping much to halt the prospectively preventable conditions. Ovie Ebireri, a journalist, revealed the views of the experts.
He said, “There is very little government and community support for families living with cerebral palsy. These families usually bear the burden alone. Facilities for treatment and rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy are lacking or inadequate. The manpower gap is enormous. There is no national policy framework and no roadmap for treating cerebral palsy in Nigeria.”
They believed that if “primary healthcare centres should be equipped with trained manpower and instruments necessary for efficient functioning of maternal, newborn and child care. For those already affected by cerebral palsy, emphasis should be on intensive rehabilitation, care and support services.
There is another suggestion, “Healthcare services should include treatment of minor or recurring. Day care services for minor procedures can also be done at home. Meals should be planned by a dietician in order to prevent malnutrition or obesity. Home based mortality and rehabilitation services should be provided by physiotherapists and caregivers.”
Consequently, medical experts warned pregnant women to be cautious of what they eat or give their children before they get to five years old because drugs, infections, stress, nutrition and many others are contributory factors that affect the wellbeing of the child. Evidence shows that things taken during pregnancy or before a child attains five years old most times affect the child in a negative way.
There is a clarion call that the provision of health insurance and financial support and nutritional support would go a long way to assist CP children. Those in this line of thought, said, “Government should develop rehabilitation services that are equipped with modern devices and instruments for proper rehabilitation. Government should plan for training and restraining of personnel involved in the multidisciplinary care of children with cerebral palsy.
“Government should fund research programmes in the field of cerebral palsy. Government should formulate policies that will assist and protect people living with disabilities, pass legislation that will ban the use of derisory words on people with disabilities as well as enact laws to ensure freedom of movement and social interaction of disabled persons within the community.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO), recommended, “Improvement in mental health services doesn’t require sophisticated and expensive technologies. What is required is increasing the capacity of the primary healthcare system for delivery of an integrated package of care.”
Odimegwu Onwumere writes that Governor Wike of Rivers State has shown commitment to the fight against polio, following the new cases of the disease that vegetated in Borno State, but such commitment can be enhanced with proper primary healthcare and taking some lessons from the past administration’s polio policies
Wike reiterated his administration obligation to obviate polio and support the campaign against it. He said this when a section of Rotarians from the United States of America, under the auspices of International Director of Rotary International, led by Mr. Brad Howard, stopped over for him at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
That was coming after the World Health Organisation (WHO) on August 11, 2016, confirmed three cases of polio in Nigeria. Albeit, the international health body had on 25th September 2015, announced that Nigeria was no longer on the polio endemic list.
In a statement by the WHO about the feat of 2015, “The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the public-private partnership leading the effort to eradicate polio, called this a ‘historic achievement’ in global health. Nigeria has not reported a case of wild poliovirus since 24 July 2014, and all laboratory data have confirmed a full 12 months have passed without any new cases.”
Buttressing its point, the World Health Organisation, added, “As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide. Since then, a concerted effort by all levels of government, civil society, religious leaders and tens of thousands of dedicated health workers have resulted in Nigeria successfully stopping polio.
“More than 200 000 volunteers across the country repeatedly immunised more than 45 million children under the age of five years, to ensure that no child would suffer from this paralysing disease. Innovative approaches, such as increased community involvement and the establishment of Emergency Operations Centres at the national and state level, have also been pivotal to Nigeria’s success.”
In spite of this, with the new cases coming from areas (like Monguno Local Government Area, and south in Jere and Gwoza, Borno State) that were once suffering the torment of Islamic terrorists known as and called Boko Haram in the North-east, no case of polio has however been reported in Rivers State, apart from what a former Rivers State Commissioner for Health under ex-Governor Chibuike Amaechi, Dr. Tamunoiyoriari Parker stated during the first National Immunisation Plus Days, (IPDs) campaign against polio disease in 2012.
Partker said, “Despite the increase in the number of people effected nation-wide in 2011, only one case of polio disease was confirmed in Rivers State in May, 2007 and in the past five years Rivers State has a clean bill of health on the polio disease, which was achieved by collaborative efforts of stakeholders and agencies in the state coupled with the deliberate effort of the state government to eradicate the disease.”
But experts believe that more cases can spring up if urgent measures are not put in place to scuttle the menace headlong. And the fears of this might be the restlessness that Wike has shown against the scourge, hence he has been calling on all stakeholders and medical experts to rise up to the occasion in making sure that Nigeria is brought back to the WHO’s index as a free-polio country.
It is evident that Wike has been working with stakeholders like the Rotary Club, whose field coordinator, Aminu Muhammad was it that confirmed the new cases of polio in the northern Borno State. The highlight of this is that Rivers State might not be free from polio if Wike has not been showing strong commitment to the fight against polio in the state, since the state had once recorded a victim, no matter the year.
Wike and opinion leaders in Rivers State might learn that if over 1.5 million children were vaccinated by Rotary in Borno a week before the new find, Rivers State is not immune to polio. The find in Borno was said by the WHO that it was as a result of lackadaisical approach by the authorities in not detecting the virus which went spiral for five years due to the Boko Haram nuisance in the area. But Wike was invariably showing through his body language, suggesting that Rivers State had every privilege to prevent the budding of polio since the state is not part of the areas which the WHO said is too hazardous to approach for vaccination.
There might be some upheavals in some parts of Rivers State caused by unintelligent youths, but the Rivers government has every favour to share in a plan of the WHO to reach 25 million children before the year dingdongs its bell. Wike could be assuring the residents of the state that they have nothing to fear, remembering April 27 2016, when the WHO’s representative in Nigeria, Dr Riv Game Vas, visited him in Government House, Port Harcourt, and thanked him for his mettle in sending any form of Lassa Fever packing in the state, which was in the news early this year.
Vas also thanked Wike and the country for the efforts in underneathing the country polio free in the past 21 months. But showing that he is open-minded to accept any policy that is people-oriented, Wike on May 2, 2016, during the swearing-in of the substantive president of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Gabriel Nwankwo in government House, said, “I will support any policy of the Federal Government that will enhance the living standard of the people of Rivers State. It doesn’t matter who initiated such policy as long as it favours our people.”
So, to win the battle of any eventuality of polio in Rivers State, Wike has to review some measures taken by the past government in Rivers State with which it fought the virus. In 2013, the then Governor Amaechi flagged-off the National Immunisation Plus Days Campaign against poliomyelitis in the state that year. Baby Faith Tom, one year and four months old; and Baby Pamela Engofa, aged three and half years, were the two kids that Amaechi dispensed with oral polio vaccine to flag off the National Immunisation plus days crusade against polio at the Degema Local Government Council Headquarters.
Although, Wike had said that his government will make sure that the required attention is given to primary healthcare facilities across the state, when Vas visited him. He has to take this area seriously. And the primary healthcare might not be efficiently harnessed without the proper and thorough involvement of women.
This is the reason it is palpable to take the message delivered by the wife of the governor, Justice Eberechi Nyesom Wike, seriously.
On July 9, 2016, Justice Wike at the Christ Church, Port Harcourt, after she inaugurated the Mammogram Centre built in the church premises by the Christ Church Women’s League, had called for public-private partnership in the health sector. Her view was that this would enhance more people having entrée to reputable healthcare facilities. Justice Wike nonetheless called on women to acquiesce themselves for timely screening for breast cancer.
Governor Wike might follow some tips that Parker dished out during the first National Immunization Plus Days, (IPDs) campaign against polio disease in 2012, that were used to curb polio in the state. Parker had hinted that there should be House to House polio immunization which commenced in the state on Saturday 18th February 2012 with the inclusion of churches, schools, playground, health facilities and all settlements and children less than five years of age, because the child rights law No. 10 of 2009 guarantees the right of the child to be immunized.
Parker added, “To fight the disease, deliberate policy must be followed to overcome and eradicate it completely. Such policy thrust include, effective mass communication, health education and awareness creation, collaboration, surveillance and evaluation of eradication strategies.”
It was learnt that during the Amaechi administration, the state government through the Ministry of Health betrothed in a laudable grassroots tilting polio vaccination operation. That administration made sure that there was free medical care programme. This helped patients enough in understanding and attending to their health challenges and the primary healthcare centres became a vehicle that assisted the past administration on immunisation services as well as other precautionary and therapeutic services, inter alia.