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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs