by Ben Ndubuwa………….
The lockdown measures appear to have been successful in lowering the spread of coronavirus infections in the extraction zones. However, there are strong indications that the existing environmental conditions in the Niger Delta have created the unfavourable conditions for the spread of the pandemic.
Space for Change said that pre-existing problems of environmental pollution, oil spill and degradations in Niiger Delta are not only undermining people’s resilience and ability to comply with health protocols, but are also triggering unintended adverse consequences especially for women, children and the aged.
According to Space for Change and KEBETKACHE WOMEN the impacts of the COVID-19 containment measures on local populations, especially the women in oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta needs to be effectly expanded.
“And strategies and response actions aimed at reducing the potential spread and impact of infection in Nigere Delta should be reviewed” they said.
According to them an independent studies have established that people of all ages in the region are exposed to petroleum-contaminated surface water or groundwater when used for bathing, washing, cooking and drinking.
In particular, the United Nations Environmental Programme finds that the types of chemical present in crude and refined oils and released during its combustion may lead to short-term respiratory problems and skin and eye irritation if concentrations are sufficiently high.
“This finding raises an alarm bell, especially when placed side by side with the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) caution that people with pre-existing non-communicable diseases such as respiratory diseases appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the coronavirus. The implication is that underlying health conditions often associated with crude oil production predisposes oil-rich communities to greater risk of being disproportionately harmed by the coronavirus” they noted.
It is therefore imperative that compliance to safety-enhancing practices recommended by health experts to minimize the spread and transmission of coronavirus include lockdowns, handwashing, social distancing, self-isolation, use of sanitizers and healthy living should be enforced.
In the oil-producing communities degraded by decades of oil pollution and environmental devastation, numerous factors combine to hinder substantial
adherence to these practices, increasing their vulnerability to infection.
“For the women of the region, gender inequalities and lower economic status further constrain their ability to comply with these measures. The impacts of the lockdown on local populations, especially women, are aggravated by a range of factors including preexisting social and environmental conditions,
misinformation, food shortages and insecurity, income losses, weak local healthcare systems, lack of access to clean water and gaping inequalities in enforcing lockdowns” they said