THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON WOMEN’S HEALTH IN NIGERIA

Nigeria is one of the most populous countries in Africa and presently, it is besieged by multiple climate change impacts especially on women’s health. Nigeria’s climate has been mutating, as evidenced by increases in temperature, capricious rainfall, rise in sea level and flooding, drought, and desertification, land degradation, more recurrent extreme weather events (lightning, landslides, floods, droughts, thunderstorms, bush fires), affected freshwater resources and loss of biodiversity. Therefore a number of these climatic changes affect the lives of women in Nigeria. Climate change affects women’s health through a multitude of mechanisms, including heat, poor air quality, and extreme weather events, as well as through meteorological changes that alter vector-borne disease, reduce water quality, and decrease food security.  Thus, climate change has become a risk multiplier for gender-based health disparities, especially in Nigeria.

Current scientific findings indicate that environmental factors affect women’s health. Specifically, evidence has accumulated on the effects of the environment on reproductive health, cancer, injury, respiratory problems, autoimmune diseases, and other health problems. The health risks associated with these exposure pathways are mediated through physiologic, cultural, and socioeconomic vulnerabilities, which differ substantially between men and women. Many examples abound. For instance, in Nigeria, women suffer from higher rates of anemia and malnutrition and are sensitive to climate-driven food insecurity due to increased nutritional needs during menstruation and childbirth. Anemia is associated with cognitive impairments including poor attention span, diminished working memory, and poor educational outcomes. Respiratory and cardiovascular disease secondary to exposure to poor air quality preferentially impacts women due to a greater proclivity for higher deposition of particulate matter in lung tissue and higher rates of anemia.

Poor air quality is also associated with negative birth outcomes and affects maternal and child health in that it is associated with stillbirth, intrauterine growth restriction, and congenital defects. Women spend greater amounts of time in the home and thus are disproportionately exposed to particulate matter from the use of traditional indoor stoves for cooking and heating.

During climate-related disasters, women suffer disproportionate mortality, and survivors experience decreased life expectancy. Women and girls are at a higher risk of physical, sexual, and domestic violence in the aftermath of disasters and are at a higher risk for mood disorders and poor economic recovery. These impacts could be intensified when women have a lower socioeconomic status. Forced migration and repeated short-distance moves are especially significant for poorer people, as well as for women, who are often excluded from migration analysis. For example, a woman that is due for cervical cancer repeat screening could miss her visit because of forced migration. Those women and girls displaced are also at risk of rape, domestic violence, and emotional depression. Pregnant women are at greater risks of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity because of the failure of evidence-based antenatal care.

Among all the factors recognizable, there is the impact of poverty, illiteracy, and gender bias on women’s life spaces. The failure to recognize and protect women’s life spaces in economic policy and planning commonly leads to serious health issues for women and their children. The lack of gender-disaggregated health data in Nigeria further restricts conclusive understanding of the verges of exposure for harm and may result in a lack of awareness by local, national, and even global decision-makers and healthcare personnel. The evidence of the impact of such disease environments on women’s environmental health abounds at large.

Presently, there is a lack of data on women’s climatic health in Nigeria. There is a need for increased research and policy formulation dealing with women’s environmental health in Nigeria.

In conclusion, a number of climatic changes affect the health of women in Nigeria via a multitude of mechanisms. Evidence shows that these changes may continue to have a major impact on women’s health and ecosystems unless meaningful interventions are put in place. High-level political engagement and implementation is necessary to ensure that policies and programs embrace proactive and gender-based solutions that will protect women’s climatic health.