A GLOOMY picture of the health conditions of Nigerians living in the oil producing and Delta regions of the country has been painted as they are said to be more prone to stroke, heart failure and cancer.
Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, at the weekend urged the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control to take its mandate of preventing and discovering cure for some deadly diseases very seriously.
In a related development, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) yesterday appealed for $2.2 billion (N374 billion) to enable it provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in 2014 to 85 million people, including 59 million children who are facing conflict, natural disasters and other complex emergencies in 50 countries.
Two new studies published last week in Science have shown how products of petroleum/oil spills, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs - a class of compounds prevalent in crude oil - can disrupt cardiac function by blocking ion channels in their heart muscle cells; and how changes in environmental temperature and dew point can cause rise in stroke hospitalisation and death rates.
Earlier studies by Nigerian researchers led by Dr. Chimezie Anyakora of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, had shown that more Nigerians are at a greater risk of developing different types of cancer due to exposure to crude oil pollutants.
According to the studies, more than 25 per cent of Nigerians are at an increased risk of developing cancer due to exposure to toxic chemicals from crude oil pollution, PAHs. They also suggest that PAHs can be genotoxic; that is, the damage caused can be inherited.
PAHs are a widespread class of environmental chemical pollutants. They are a component of crude and refined petroleum and coal.
Scientists in one of the two new studies have discovered the underlying mechanism of heart failure in fish exposed to oil spills.
Researchers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and Stanford University, United States (U.S.), found that some petroleum compounds act as ion channel blockers in the heart cells of young tuna, disrupting normal cardiac function.
Recently, researchers from NOAA Fisheries partnered with a team from Stanford University to discover how oil-derived chemicals disrupt the normal functioning of the heart muscle cells of fish.
The new findings are part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment conducted by NOAA and other federal and state trustee agencies following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That spill occurred across a large region where the Western stock of Atlantic bluefin tuna spawn, raising the possibility that the eggs and larvae of this valuable species were exposed to crude oil. Natural Resource Damage Assessments are used to determine liabilities after a spill and to help develop restoration plans.
Also, the second study presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2014 identified a nationwide sample of 134,510 people, 18 years and older, admitted to hospitals in 2009-10 for ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow in or leading to the brain). They then obtained temperature and dew point data during that period.
The researchers found:
• Larger daily temperature changes and higher average dew point (indicating higher air moisture) were associated with higher stroke hospitalisation rates.
• Lower average yearly temperatures were associated with stroke hospitalisation and death.
• With each 1°F increase in average temperature, there was a 0.86 per cent decrease in the odds of stroke hospitalisation and a 1.1 per cent decrease in the odds of dying in the hospital after stroke.
• Increases in daily temperature fluctuation and average dew point were associated with increased odds of stroke hospitalisation, but not with dying in the hospital.
The minister was in Benin City to commission a mobile laboratory for the diagnosis of Lassa fever donated by Bernhard Notch Institute of Tropical Medicine, Hamburg, Germany.
Chukwu said Lassa fever was one of the identified diseases the centre was mandated to work on, saying: “So for me, we need to enhance our surveillance and control as far as these diseases are concerned. In the case of Lassa fever, we lost doctors, we lost nurses and relatives of doctors and nurses from this dreadful disease, so I want us to be a bit more practical about what we are doing on Lassa fever and that is why I want to commend EU and Bernhard Notch Institute of Tropical Medicine for the donation of mobile laboratory for the diagnosis of Lassa fever, but we need to do more.
UNICEF’s Director of Emergency Programmes, Ted Chaiban, yesterday at the launch of the Humanitarian Action for Children 2014 appeal in Geneva, Switzerland, said: “I have just returned from South Sudan, the latest large-scale conflict to disrupt the lives of millions of innocent children. Over 400,000 children and their families have been displaced by the conflict, and over 3.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The rainy season is coming and we need to intensify supplies and reinforce essential services, for which we need urgent funding to prevent a catastrophe.
“The children of South Sudan join millions of others affected by conflict in the Central African Republic and Syria. But while today’s headlines focus on these complex, under-funded crises, many other desperate situations also require immediate funding and urgent humanitarian assistance. These include Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Yemen, and other countries reflected in UNICEF’s appeal.”
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2014 appeal highlights the daily challenges faced by children in humanitarian crises, the support required to help them survive and thrive, and the results that are possible even in the most difficult circumstances.
For Syria and the sub-region, UNICEF is appealing for $835 million (N141.9 billion) to enable it deliver life-saving assistance including immunisation, water and sanitation, education, and protection; and to support the social cohesion and peace-building skills needed to build a more sustainable future.
Chaiban said: “Children are always the most vulnerable group in emergencies, facing a high risk of violence, exploitation, disease and neglect.
“But when support is made available, we can change the lives of children for the better. With its partners, UNICEF is working to address a diverse range of humanitarian situations, including malnutrition in the Sahel; lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation in Yemen; cholera in Haiti; increased attacks on children in Afghanistan; and drought in Angola.”
Funds raised by the appeal will also help UNICEF in its work with its partners to strengthen communities’ abilities to cope with future conflict or natural disaster shocks by reinforcing national preparedness systems and developing resilience among children and communities.
SOURCE; Guardian news