News / Africa

Poverty, Pollution Lower Life Expectancy in Nigeria

Children play in the Makoko slum in Lagos, Nigeria, where houses sit on stilts above polluted waters of the Lagos lagoon, January 21, 2011.
Children play in the Makoko slum in Lagos, Nigeria, where houses sit on stilts above polluted waters of the Lagos lagoon, January 21, 2011.
Heather Murdock
ABUJA — Nigeria's Center for Disease Control says poverty and pollution have reduced the national life expectancy to 47 years old, one of the lowest in West Africa.  And while health officials dispute the number, none dispute the urgency of improving health care in the remote rural areas.
There’s a problem in Nigeria that no one disagrees with: when people here die young, they usually die from diseases that could have been prevented or treated.  
Doctors say child mortality is rising in places like Zamfara State in the north, where a lead poisoning outbreak has killed more than 400 children under the age of five since March 2010.  
Families in the southern Niger Delta region, an area activists call “the world’s largest oil spill,” say their children’s immune systems are weakened from drinking toxic water, and that children frequently die from diseases like cholera and malaria.
Tonye Emmanuel Isenah, a state assembly member in the Niger Delta, says adults in his region are also weakened by the pollution.

“The life expectancy of our people has dramatically dropped," said Isneha. "You can imagine at 45, 40, people are beginning to have strokes.”

Before the country’s Center for Disease Control announced that they calculated a reduction in the national life expectancy figures last week, the World Bank said Nigeria’s life expectancy was just above 51 years old, almost 20 years less than the world average.  
Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Nigeria’s state minister of health, says he disagrees with the report.  He says he believes life expectancy is actually improving as the government implements programs to fight diseases like polio and malaria and provide primary care to children in the countryside.  
He agrees with the report in some respects, saying Nigeria’s average life span is dragged down by high death rates among mothers and children.

"Pregnancy is not a disease, yet many mothers die from it.  It’s only a subset of pregnant women that will have complications and require interventions but if those interventions are not there or alternative care is not provided, mothers do not know they are at risk," explained Pate.

Dr. Adamu Onu, a family practitioner in Abuja, says health crises across the country have the same root cause: poverty.  He says most of the people in Nigeria simply don’t have access to health care because they live far away from the nearest clinic and don’t have the money or the means to travel to the city.
Many people also do not seek trained medical professionals, he says, because they don’t know that doctors can help them live longer than traditional healers. "People are not so educated and they lack access to health care and when they do fall sick they prefer to use alternative medical systems rather than the formal health sector," stated Onu.

Dr. Onu says even when people do seek help, there are almost no doctors in the countryside where most of the population lives.  
John Brisbe, an elder in a fishing community in Delta State, says when children in his remote region get sick they often die because it can take up to six hours to get to the hospital in a canoe.

"They are not taking care of any of our communities.  So we are suffering," he said. "Different types of sickness are harming our children because of this river water that we are drinking."

Earlier this year, Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics released a report that said the number of people living in “absolute poverty” has increased from 54.7 percent in 2004 to nearly 61 percent in 2010, despite the fact that the Nigerian economy, in overall terms, is growing.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: JR from: Brazil
July 05, 2012 7:56 PM
If "the Nigerian economy, in overall terms, is growing", as the news said, so we only can conclude that some few of them has gained much money, while the population is dying. Speaking clearly the real problem is the corruption.
In Response

by: SO from: Elko MN
July 08, 2012 1:25 PM
I agreed with your view point given the lifestyle of Nigerians public office holders and their families.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs