WHO warns climate change to threaten human health in Nigeria

WHO warns climate change to threaten human health in Nigeria

Abuja, 16 November 2015: Climate change is threatening to worsen health problems in Nigeria, the World Health Organization warns in a new Climate and Health Country Profile 2015, published today.  Increased temperatures, intense heatwaves, more extreme rainfall and  floods are expected to intensify existing challenges of communicable diseases, food insecurity and poverty, if action is not taken. 

“Our planet is losing its capacity to sustain human life in good health,” said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “The best defence is the same one that will protect us from outbreaks of infectious disease, and the mounting burden of non-communicable disease: strong, flexible, and resilient health systems.”

WHO, in partnership with the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and a range of partners, worked with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) in Nigeria to develop the country’s profile, which provides evidence on the links between climate change and health as well as the opportunities Nigeria could take to improve health while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Dr Rui Gama Vaz, the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria stated that “being a signatory to Kyoto Protocol, Nigeria’s adoption of the policy will enhance her obligation towards reduction of emission of obnoxious substances in the environment even as it emerged that gas flaring in the country has been reduced to 8%”. 

However, “Nigeria also needs to intensify activities in the areas of adaptation and awareness creation to ensure the implementation of the UNFCCC policies. This will empower the government to protect health from the climate change” the WR added 

Nigeria’s country profile is one of the first 15 profiles WHO is releasing for ministers of health and other decision-makers from around to world to support an effective and health-promoting treaty at the UNFCCC negotiations in Paris in December 2015. 

Key climate change implications for health in Nigeria

There is now a very large body of evidence that human actions, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, have caused significant changes in the climate system. 

Global emissions of climate pollutants, including carbon dioxide and black carbon, are driving climate change.  If current rates of emissions continue, mean annual temperature is projected to rise by about 4.8°C from 1990-2100. However, if they can be reduced through actions such as shifting to cleaner fuels for electricity generation and household energy, and less polluting transport systems, the temperature rise could be limited to about 1.2°C.

Climate change is expected to increase heatwaves, droughts, flooding, and sea levels around the world, and in Nigeria, this has manifested in increased flooding and rise in sea levels.  It could be recalled that, the July 2012 Nigeria floods with its devastation proofed that the impact of climate change has set in in the country. In that year,  23 states in the federation were affected.  363 people died, 18,282 people were injured, 2,100,000 people were displaced and 7.7 million people affected in other ways. Some communities were even submerged under the flood water

Key Actions to take in Nigeria

While the Nigerian government is already taking substantial initiatives to implement health adaptation programmes and build technical capacity, the country profile identifies additional opportunities for actions. 

WHO recommends that the country conducts a national assessment of climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation for health, and defines a national climate change and health strategy led by the Ministry of Health, but including other sectors such as agriculture and transport.

This should guide protective measures.  For example, if the country strengthened measures against sea level rise and coastal flooding, the number of people affected could be limited to about 200 people per year.  Improving disease surveillance and response could provide effective protection against the risk of diseases such as malaria and dengue, even in a warming climate.  

Although Nigeria makes relatively little contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, there are still advantages to the country in following a more environmentally friendly development path. 

Key actions Nigeria has already taken include: approval in 2014 by the Federal Executive Council of the adoption of the National Policy on Climate Change and Response Strategy (NPCC-RS) which focuses on: adaptation, mitigation, finance and technology as a National Document for implementing climate activities in the country. 

On health, the country adopted the following measures:

Presidential Implementation Committee on CDM (PIC-CDM, establishment of other institutional arrangements and coordination mechanisms.
With the help of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) has set up dedicated SLCP units that will work across ministries in government to coordinate and enhance mitigation actions towards air pollution. 
Development of policy documents and guidelines including Situation Analysis and Needs Assessment (SANA) and Health National Adaptation Plan (HNAP) documents on going and aligned to National Action Plans (NAP).
Decentralization of implementation of planned adaptation actions and strategies by establishing climate change desk offices/units in the 36 state ministries of health including the Federal capital territory.
Have plans for awareness creation on impact of climate change on public health, public education and preventive options.
Strengthening resilience of health systems and preparing for emergencies and disasters.
Strengthening of linkages with other stakeholders such as Ministries of Environment, the Nigerian Metrological Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Water Resources etc for climatic information, provision of water, promote proper nutrition, safe sanitation, immunization and elimination of poverty etc. 
Signed MOU for Public Private Partnership to reach out to the states and communities with IEC material on climate change, renewable energy and adaptation actions.
Strengthening of the surveillance system for early warning on communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Note to Editors:

The Climate and Health Country Profiles are coordinated by WHO with the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, funded and supported by the Wellcome Trust, and produced with leading experts at the University of East Anglia, CDP, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the World Meteorological Organization and the World Bank.

Related links:

- Country profile

- Support WHO’s Call to Action to protect health from climate change


For more information, please contact:

Ms Charity Warigon; Tel: +234 810 221 0093; Email:   warigonc [at] who.int