Skip to main content

Climate Change, Water & Health

Ajobiewe Tolulope Odigwe
Ibadan, Nigeria
The manifestation of climate change has had its effects directly or indirectly on human health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its estimates reported that 150,000 deaths were caused by climate change in the year 2000. In 2003, WHO conducted another study which revealed that 5.5 million healthy years of life were lost worldwide due to debilitating diseases caused by climate change. Increasingly, there has been evidence that points clearly to the effects of climate variability on the quality and availability of water supplies. In 2002, Sharon and Macol in “Gender, Population and Environment”, narrated that current scientific research shows that climate change will have major effects on precipitation, evaporation, and runoff — and ultimately on the water supply. 

Undoubtedly, water is the most abundant molecule on earth, it is approximately 70% of the earth’s surface. In addition, depending on age and body size, the human body is usually 58%-78% water and there are about 326 million cubic miles of water on earth, with groundwater and rainwater as the major source of freshwater. “If 50% of the world population lives within 150 kilometres off the shore, if 13 of the world’s largest cities are on the coast, and if the coast provides 25 % of all primary biological productivity and 80– 90% of the global fishing catch,” why then is it estimated that 1.1 billion people don’t have easy access to drinking water, and 2.6 billion people don’t have water that’s clean enough? Can one relate this to Climate Change? Perhaps that explains Ken Saro-Wiwa’s saying – “water, water everywhere yet there is no water to drink”.

The Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 2001 as opined by Heike Spohr, estimates a rise of the sea level until the year 2100 between 9 and 88 cm. This and subsequent land loss especially in coastal areas will have severe effects on local population, hence, an increase in sea level has been proven to cause saltwater intrusion to groundwater thereby deteriorating the quality of water. Also, uncertainty in changes to spatial and temporal pattern of rainfall due to global warming poses a threat to availability of water. 

Sea level rise is already putting low-lying coastal populations at risk, and intense rainfall events are projected to increase with climate change. This increases the risk of flooding, which can introduce chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals into water systems and increase the risk of water-borne disease outbreak. In Nigeria, over fifteen communities and farm plantations worth millions of Naira was submerged by flood in Shonga district, Edu Local Government Area of Kwara State in 2010. Little wonder the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that over 250,000 Nigerians were displaced by flood disasters that wreaked vast destruction on many communities across the nation. 

“Flooding from the rain literally shut down Lagos metropolis, forcing people to stay indoors and leaving some major roads and highways flooded. It also affected Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Rivers, Edo, Enugu, Cross River, Anambra and Oyo States” (The Guardian 11 July, 2011). During the 2012 flooding in Nigeria, 30 out of the 36 states was affected, 363 lives were lost, over 2.1 million people displaced, and a whopping 7 million plus people were affected, with total damages hitting an incredible 2.6 trillion Naira (NEMA November 5, 2012). 

Increases in temperature and rainfall are expected to contribute to increased outbreaks of cholera, diarrhea, Salmonella, Campylobacter, enteric infections, and rotavirus. Harmful algal blooms can form, which produce toxins that can affect water supplies and can be passed up the food chain to humans. Children are especially vulnerable to food and water borne diseases because they are more likely to die from dehydration, diarrhea, and vomiting. Minority children and children of lower socioeconomic status in areas that lack adequate capacity to provide food and water supplies are at the greatest risk.

Shaibu Victor advanced yet another argument in “Innovative financing for adaptation to climate change” when he opined that no longer is it strange, the fact that climate change has impacts on the health of man, noting that the decline in the quality of air we breathe and wild fire suggests a clear indication of the phenomena. Stressing further, “A change in the weather condition that our body is already used to will definitely affect our body chemistry or system, and this will ultimately take its toll on our health”. 

In a nut shell, climate change has a role to play in the episodes of flooding and prolonged rain spells (drought) in Nigeria in the past few years. This is evidenced by short-lived raining engagements in a calendar year, fiercer rain and wind, wells drying up so fast, farmers decrying the non-availability of water for agriculture and irrigation purposes to mention but a few. A Reflection on this happenings reminds one of W. H. Auden, who said that “thousands have lived without love, not one without water”. Therefore, the call to act against climate change, is a call not just for the government, policy makers, experts, journalists or activists. It is a clarion call for all and sundry to take precautionary measures against the woes of climate change in the interest of the environment and humanity. 


Popular posts from this blog

Call For African Youth Activists

What is an “Ignite Activist”? ­ An Ignite Activist is a high powered​ and ambitious young African individual. They are patriotic about their own country and the African continent as a whole. They are keen to speak out, share their opinions or experiences, and are always ready to defend the well-being of the African Youth! As vocal youth activists, they strive to not only lead the conversation on African Youth, but to ignite young Africans into Change-makers!
About Our Youth Activism Program ­ For a period of up to 6 months, corresponding youth activists will be engaged under the leadership and guidance of our International Panel. While there will be a formal set of activities, youth activists will have the liberty to call upon fellow members towards a particular cause, post and share articles or video messages to make themselves and their views heard! After 6 months of voluntary service, these members will be accorded with Alumni status and receive adequate recognition for their selfle…

Bisharo Ali Hussein (Somalia) - African Youth Role Model Series

Bisharo Ali Hussein is a Kenyan-Somali activist and outspoken champion for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality in Somalia. She channels her activism through her career as a Protection Officer for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Galkayo, Somalia and also served as an African Youth Activist of Ignite The Youth from 2015 to 2016. As an Ignite The Youth activist she shared on the youth experiences of conflict in her country and “Ensuring Access to Education for all”. Her most spirited campaigns however were part of her Women’s Rights agenda; which focused on demanding an end to Female Genital Mutilation and early marriage, and her advocacy for Gender Equality; arguing for gender-biased inheritance laws to change. Bisharo is currently pursuing her Postgraduate Diploma in ‘International Gender Studies’ at the University of Iceland.
Almost 2 years after serving as a corresponding activist for Ignite The Youth, Bisharo insists that Somali women remain one of the most vulnerable groups in…

The African Youth Commission [PROFILE]

"From Internet Community to One Governed by a Constitution"
The African Youth Commission (AYC) was founded in November 2013, as the African Union Youth Working Group (AUYWG), at a Youth Consultation on Agenda 2063 in Tunis,Tunisia. From 2013 to 2015 the AUYWG collaborated via an active mailing list, for the 2 years of online interaction the network invited numerous African Youth Leaders in the continent and diaspora. The working group later changed into a Commission as the cause of the network evolved by consensus to create a youth mirror to the African Union Commission. 
"The main objective of establishing the Commission is to organize all young people in Africa and support the work of African youth, Youth structures (Pan African Youth Union & Youth Division of the African Union Commission) in their quest to effective service delivery and advocacy activities on the African Youth Charter..." - AYC
At this point the Commission proceeded to draft its o…