Amuche Nnabueze from Nigeria
Amuche – Parents for Future Nigeria.
In the 1970s, when I was growing up in my village in Ukehe, eastern Nigeria, we had asthma related emergency in my family, sometimes the attack came with other related complications like convulsion in infancy and early childhood which could have had very devastating effects on development. This kept me and my family on edge and constantly anxious. This could be attributable to our cooking practices and pollution from firewood. This situation kept my sibling (one out of eight) on asthma drugs such as Ventolin/Albuterol (also known as salbutamol) and inhalers while growing up. Fortunately, we have all grown up and are parents but memories of that trauma still punctuate our lives. With our own children here and constantly exposed to air pollutants and allergic triggers, we are even more anxious.
Earlier this year, precisely in June 2021, I lost one of my friends to respiratory complications having been a known asthmatic. The data for asthma and allergenic sufferers in Nigeria are scary. In recent time and having moved to other cities in Nigeria, I have seen worse pollution with the air quality getting worse, given that there are now more sources of air pollution; like gas flaring, illegal refining of crude, open and uncontrolled waste incineration of municipal solid wastes (MSW).
We see young people and grown ups suffering from allergic reactions and asthmatic attacks. The traumatic experience of sudden onset and attack of asthma can be devastating. In the university medical center where I worked for over 3 years, I witnessed some of the most traumatic asthma attacks, with many needing nebulization and sometimes admission. Given the poor medical infrastructural and insurance settings most of the hospitals and clinics in Nigeria operate on, it is usually a very difficult time for families and friends of sufferers.
Of greater concern is the problem of open waste burning in the streets. Equally of concern is the fact that institutions that are in place and should enforce air quality controls are ill equipped and corrupt. This leaves the enforcement undone since the persons responsible are more concerned to earn their daily living given the extent of poverty and inequality in place in Nigeria.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality in Nigerian cities is generally not safe. My Nigeria has the highest percentage of air pollution death in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cities like Port Harcourt is covered in sooth emanating from gas flaring and other fossil fuel operations in the Niger Delta. According to scholars, Air pollution is a major environmental problem and relates to anthropogenic climate change which is centred on the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Cities such as Lagos, Kano, and Port Harcourt are hotspots of air pollution in Nigeria. Air pollutants emission in Nigeria are majorly from biomass fuel burning from vehicles, landfill gases, domestic cooking stove and industries. Air pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) pose mild to severe respiratory illness particularly in vulnerable persons.
One of our group members in Parents for Future Nigeria is working on improved cooking stove for women to reduce the extent of pollution women and their children are exposed to while carrying out their daily survival needs. If this is solved we will still have the problem from other sources of air pollution. That is why we add our voices and join the campaign raising awareness to call for a stop to air pollution and climate change to ensure a liveable future for our children and children all over the world.