The recent disclosure by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that seven million people are killed yearly from air pollution is scary. However, the good news is that the global agency is working out strategies to combat its effect on health.
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To combat the menace, the WHO held a conference on air pollution and health from October 30 to November 1, in Geneva Switzerland in response to a World Health Assembly mandate to combat air pollution, which is regarded as one of the world’s most significant causes of premature death. The conference held with the theme: “Improving air quality, combating climate change-saving lives.” The global health agency is disturbed that air pollution in most cities, at present, has exceeded the recommended Air Quality levels. According to the WHO, household air pollution is a leading killer in poor rural and urban homes. The UN agency says that one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease is due to air pollution. Also, air pollution is responsible for one in nine deaths worldwide.
Another report from the global health body says that each day, 93 per cent of children under the age of 15 breathe dangerously polluted air across the world. This indicates that about 1.8 billion young people, as well as 630 million kids under the age of five, inhale poisonous air every day.
In 2016, about 600,000 children died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air. The damning air pollution report should worry political leaders, especially those in developing countries where such dangerous pollution occur each day.
Unfortunately, there is no rigorous plan to combat the menace in the country. Each day, Many Nigerians are daily exposed to air pollution, especially hazardous gases from the exhaust pipes of old vehicles that ought to have been banned from the roads. In their homes, owing to inadequate supply of electricity, millions of Nigerians are forced to inhale dangerous fumes from power generators.
Many Nigerians have lost their lives to fumes from power generators. The air pollution in the oil-rich Delta region where gas flaring activities continue without let or hindrance every day, is well known.
Every day in Nigeria, 700 million standard cubic feet per gas is being flared. Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru said the N868 million daily lost to gas flaring could generate 5, 000 megawatts of electricity for Nigerians. In 2015, Nigeria lost 850 million United States dollars to gas flaring. Besides contributing significantly to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, gas flaring also causes respiratory diseases.
Air pollution is the cause of a number of terminal diseases. Physicians for Social Responsibility, a body of medical experts in the United States claim that it triggers new cases of asthma and exacerbates respiratory conditions. Air pollution also leads to the development of chronic illnesses, including lung cancer. Air pollutants also significantly harm lung development and create additional risk factor for developing lung diseases later in life.
In Nigeria, there are no reliable statistics on the havoc caused by air pollution. But the high rate of air pollution and the rise in the number of new cases of respiratory diseases across the country should worry the government. Unfortunately, the authorities are seemingly doing nothing to curb the menace.
They should bear in mind that a healthy population translates to a healthy economy and a prosperous nation. Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
Without doubt, the good health of the citizenry should be a major concern of the government since a healthy body is a healthy mind. Therefore, Nigerian government should show genuine commitment to combat air pollution.