Physicians Link Deforestation to Rise in Respiratory Illnesses

21st May 2024

The Society of Family Physicians of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, has expressed concern over the alarming rate of deforestation in communities across the country, warning that clearing vegetation is not only stripping away crucial natural defences against pollution, but also contributing to a significant rise in respiratory problems.

This environmental degradation, they noted, was worsening health challenges and putting a strain on healthcare resources.

They noted that green areas were essential for controlling temperatures, filtering air, and creating a healthy atmosphere,

Speaking at a medical outreach held in commemoration of the 2024 World Family Doctor’s Day, the physicians raised concern over the potentially disastrous effects on health and the environment.

The event was specifically held in honour of a deceased pioneering member of the organisation, Dr Adedokun.

The Lagos Chairman of SOFPON, Dr Sixtus Ozuomba, said this year’s theme: “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” brings the focus to society to understand the connection between having a healthy environment and healthy people.

The consultant family physician linked the loss of vegetation to the rise in temperatures and a decline in air quality, adding that many people were feeling the brunt of the scorching sun and struggling to breathe due to increased pollution.

“These plants are our lungs. They take the carbondioxide we breathe out and give us back life-giving oxygen. Without them, the air feels heavy and contributes to respiratory problems.

“The trees and bushes used to provide a cool breeze. Now, we’re left sweltering with no escape from the heat,” he stressed.

Ozuomba lamented that man in the guise of development, urbanisation, and civilisation, had dealt a heavy blow on the planet Earth.

The expert highlighted several factors contributing to air pollution, citing the burning of fossil fuels, including firewood for cooking, and industrial emissions from vehicles and generators as major contributors.

The consultant family physician said the disruption of natural water flow was also raising concerns about overall environmental health.

To have a better environment, Ozuomba advocated for a shift towards a more sustainable future through renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, along with a renewed commitment to waste reduction and recycling.

He urged Nigerians to protect the environment and not hide under development, urbanisation or civilisation.

“We need healthy solutions, not just development at any cost. Renewable energy and responsible waste management are the way forward. It’s time to protect our environment and our health for a better tomorrow.

“The heat is everywhere, abnormal even for the rainy season. The seasons are unpredictable now. This is a result of mankind’s assault on the environment, and it’s affecting everyone.

“We see a rise in diseases – not just COVID-19, but hidden ones resurfacing: Ebola, Lassa fever, and more. Animals lose their habitat due to clearing, forcing them closer to humans. They carry diseases that can spread to us. Protecting the environment is everyone’s business. A clean environment means healthy people”, Ozuomba said.

Also speaking, SOFPON Welfare/Public Relations Officer, Dr Ayodeji Opeyemi, said the association would also be organising a tree-planting event to promote a healthy environment.

According to him, trees played a vital role by releasing oxygen and absorbing harmful carbondioxide from the air.

Highlighting the importance of a healthy environment, Opeyemi said the tree-planting initiative would be followed by a continuing medical education session at the Lagos State Island Maternity Centre, which would feature expert discussions on environmental health.

She urged Nigerians to help keep and maintain a healthy environment by avoiding environmental pollution.

“We should not contaminate our water. We should avoid littering the roads with dirty objects, pure water, nylons, and empty bottles. We should avoid as much as possible tree cutting and instead, plant trees. This will help us to maintain a healthy environment,” Opeyemi said.