60m at Risk of Sleeping Sickness in Sub-Saharan Africa Yearly – Climate Change Expert

By Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna 

A lecturer with Shehu Idris College of Health Science and Technology, Makarfi, Kaduna, and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Shuaibu Mohammed, Ameer, S, has revealed that there are about 70,000 cases of sleeping sickness in Nigeria every year, and an estimated 6o million people are at risk of the infection in sub-Saharan Africa annually.

Shuaibu Mohammed, who also lectures in Kaduna State University, department of environmental management, raised the alarm Wednesday in Kaduna in a paper presented at the First Annual Conference on Climate Change, jointly organized by African Climate Reporters and Womenhood Foundation of Nigeria.

Titled, Climate Change and Parasitic Shift: Strategy for the Fulani of Northern
Nigeria, the expert noted that one of the consequences of climate change is the shifting boundaries for many components and processes within the

“Climate change is a natural phenomenon that is characterised by global
warming, rising sea level and other extreme environmental events.  Climate is essential to ecosystem services and stability. One of the consequences of climate change is the shifting boundaries for many components and processes within the systems,” he said.

He also revealed that among these components are pathogens and infectious diseases. “Vector-borne diseases are particularly sensitive to warming because temperature changes can alter vector development rates, shift their geographical distribution and alter transmission dynamics.

“Trypanosome, a vector-borne disease of humans and animals, was recently identified as one of the 12 infectious diseases likely to spread owing to climate change. It is the most critical factor that limits the southwards migration of Fulani.

“In Northern Nigeria, climate change impacts are mainly flood, drought and rural urban migration,” he said, adding that desertification in the far north the expansion of the savannah in the Middle-Belt and the contraction of the rain forest down south “may expand availability of pasture and distribution of tsetse fly.”

The Fulanis and associated tribes, according to him, are the custodians of over 90% of cattle in Nigeria, stressing that “these cattle are the major sources of meat and dairy products in Nigeria.

“The distribution of Fulani in Nigeria is determined not only by pasture and water, but also by presence or absence of cattle parasites such as trypanosome. Sleeping sickness, or African trypanosomiasis, has been identified as an infectious disease that is very likely to be affected by climate change. It is caused by a parasite carried by Tsetse flies, which infects the nervous system and, if untreated, is fatal. There are around 70,000 cases of sleeping sickness every year, and an estimated 60 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of the infection,” he said.

“This paper reviewed the life cycle of trypanosome, the migration pattern of the Fulani, and suggests the possible environmental, public health and economic consequences of the parasitic boundary shifts,” he stated, saying the proposed strategy of mitigation and adaptation requires the collaboration of all stakeholders for sustainability.

Also, in a paper presented by Nurudeen Bello on ‘Effects of Climate Change in Nigeria,’ he stated that the adverse effect or impact of climate change such as temperature rise, erratic rainfall, sandstorm, desertification, low agricultural yields, drying of water body Lake Chad basin, gully erosion and constant flooding are daily realities in Nigeria.

He said climate change, also known as global warming, refers to rise in average surface temperature on earth, saying an overwhelming scientific consensus maintained that climate change is due to human use of fossil fuel, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas estimates into the air.

“The gases trap heat within the temperature, which can have a range of effects on ecosystems, including rise in sea levels, severe weather event, drought that render landscape more susceptible to wildfires,” he said, pointing out that the change is real, despite denials by small minority voices questioning the validity of the assertion and prefer to cast doubt on the preponderance of evidence.

Earlier, guest speaker at the occasion, Dr. Yusuf Nadabo, who is HOD Anatomy in Kaduna State University, on ‘The Important of Science Journalism’ enjoined Nigeria media practitioners to show more interest, commitment and zeal to science news and reporting, as exemplified in western world, for purposes of information and promotion of science research and encouragement.

According to him, science research, discovery and presentation without proper publicity remains a limbo and of little benefit to the larger public, saying valuable time spent to read extensively is what it takes to make a good science and climate reporter, and nothing to fear.

African climate reporters from French speaking neighboring countries and Nigeria attended the event, which took place at the Conference Hall of the Womanhood Foundation of Nigeria office, located at College Road, U/Dosa, Kawo, Kaduna, Nigeria.

They were spearheaded by Ibrahima of DW Radio, while the founder of the foundation, Hajiya Maryam Abubakar, was given award of credence by a students’ union body from Northern region.

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