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Heat waves can cause premature delivery–Prof

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By Abraham Adekunle

Causes, effects, and solutions to heat waves in the country.

In the sweltering heat of Nigeria’s scorching summers, the rising temperatures bring with them a myriad of challenges for both individuals and communities. To delve deeper into the causes, effects, and potential solutions to the current heat waves gripping the nation, Victoria Edeme from our team sat down with Professor Tanimola Akande, a distinguished figure in the field of Public Health and former National Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria. Professor Akande begins by contextualizing the phenomenon within the broader framework of global warming. He elucidates that while the world grapples with the repercussions of climate change, Nigeria finds itself in the throes of its seasonal hot weather, exacerbated by the overarching trend of rising temperatures worldwide. “This is Nigeria’s time,” he asserts, noting the escalating temperatures that surpass historical norms, a hallmark of the pervasive effects of global warming.

The causes of global warming, he explains, are multifaceted, with the burning of fossil fuels and the resultant emission of greenhouse gases leading the charge. Factors such as deforestation, drought, and variations in ocean temperatures further compound the problem, collectively contributing to the intensification of heat waves. Describing a heat wave as a prolonged period of elevated temperatures accompanied by heightened humidity, Professor Akande underscores the urbanization of towns as a significant exacerbating factor. Urban areas, he explains, act as heat sinks, generating and trapping heat due to various anthropogenic activities and environmental modifications. “Urbanization leads to the depletion of the ozone layers,” he notes, outlining a cascade of adverse effects that ripple through the urban landscape, intensifying heat waves and their attendant consequences.

Understanding the Heat Wave occurrences in Nigeria.

Also, the effects of heat waves, Professor Akande elucidates, extend beyond mere discomfort, posing significant risks to human health and well-being. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat strokes are among the myriad manifestations of heat-related illnesses, with vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, outdoor workers, and individuals with pre-existing health conditions bearing the brunt of the onslaught. Moreover, animals, too, grapple with the adverse effects of soaring temperatures, prompting veterinarians to remain vigilant in safeguarding animal welfare during periods of extreme heat. From dehydration to heat stress, the toll on both human and animal populations underscores the urgent need for proactive measures to mitigate the impact of heat waves.

Amidst the challenges posed by heat waves, Professor Akande emphasizes the importance of adopting a multifaceted approach to address the underlying causes and mitigate the effects of this climatic phenomenon. Strategies such as promoting energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and enhancing urban planning to mitigate the urban heat island effect are crucial steps in combating the escalating threat of heat waves. Furthermore, public health interventions aimed at raising awareness, enhancing resilience, and providing support to vulnerable populations are essential components of an effective response strategy.

Unravelling the impact and charting a path forward.

“Education and advocacy are key,” Professor Akande asserts, underscoring the pivotal role of community engagement and stakeholder collaboration in fostering a culture of preparedness and resilience in the face of escalating temperatures. In all, Professor Akande calls for concerted efforts at the local, national, and global levels to confront the challenges posed by heat waves and climate change. By embracing sustainable practices, fostering innovation, and prioritizing public health, Nigeria can navigate the complexities of heat waves and chart a path towards a more resilient and sustainable future for all.

As Nigeria grapples with the impacts of climate change and heat waves, it is essential to consider broader systemic changes that can address the root causes of these phenomena. Investments in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, can help reduce reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, reforestation efforts and land-use planning strategies can help restore ecosystems and mitigate the urban heat island effect in cities. Furthermore, public health infrastructure and emergency response systems must be strengthened to effectively respond to the health impacts of heat waves, including heat-related illnesses and deaths. This may involve improving access to healthcare services, implementing heat wave warning systems, and providing cooling centres for vulnerable populations during periods of extreme heat.

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Then, education and awareness-raising initiatives are also critical in empowering communities to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of heat waves. By increasing public understanding of the risks associated with heat waves and promoting adaptive behaviours, such as staying hydrated, seeking shade, and avoiding strenuous outdoor activities during peak heat hours, individuals can better protect themselves and their families from heat-related health risks. Ultimately, addressing the challenges posed by heat waves in Nigeria requires a coordinated and multi-sectoral approach, involving government, civil society, the private sector, and communities. By working together to implement evidence-based interventions and policies, Nigeria can build resilience to heat waves and climate change, ensuring a safer and more sustainable future for all.

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