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  • Writer's pictureNsedu Awatt

Effect of Climate Change on Human Health in Nigeria

Updated: May 4


Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health in various ways, such as social livelihoods, equality, and access to good health care and good health (clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply, safe shelter, and social support structures). The health risks of climate change are experienced by women, children, ethnic minorities, poor communities, migrants or displaced persons, older populations, and those with underlying health conditions. Climate change is already impacting health by being the leading cause of death and illness that arise from increasingly frequent extreme weather conditions, such as heat stress, storms, and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonosis and food, water, vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues.

Climate Change and Human Health

Climate change is threatening to worsen health problems in Nigeria. The effects of climate change can also indirectly affect health through environmental alterations, extreme heat waves, rising sea levels, precipitation changes resulting in flooding and droughts, and intense heat stress, which directly causes injury, illness, and even death. Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the extraction and burning of fossil fuels are significant contributors to climate change and air pollution. Air pollution levels negatively impact humans' respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Policies and individual measures on transport, food, and energy use choices have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat air pollution.

Changes in temperature and rainfall can alter the survival, distribution, and behavior of insects and other species, leading to an increase in infectious diseases. Increased temperatures, intense heat waves, more extreme rainfall, and floods raise the burden of infectious diseases, food insecurity, and poverty. [1] Increases in precipitation, storm surge, and sea temperature can lead to more water-related illnesses. Alterations in precipitation patterns affect geographic distribution, seasonality, and incidence of vectors and the diseases they transmit, known as vector-borne diseases. Vectors like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, can carry infective pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and parasitic worms. [2] Thus, the population can stabilize the ecosystem through greenhouse gas reduction and improved forest and wetland preservation and eradicate vector-borne diseases. [3]

Climate change has also impacted food safety by exposing people to contaminated foods resulting in foodborne illnesses. Changes in climate cause severe droughts or flooding, These events, in turn, affect pathogens and introduce toxins to crops. Pathogen-contaminated food, when consumed, leads to foodborne illnesses. Climate change directly affects food quality by altering staple crops' nutritional value, thus causing malnutrition by reducing protein content and other essential minerals[4]. Remarkable ways of promoting food safety are; through sustainable climate-focused agriculture (crop rotation and drip irrigation, crop management, crop diversification, and food storage) and promoting healthy food supply, chain and distribution systems, and infrastructure to reduce contamination of food by pathogens and toxins.

In addition, climate change can affect mental health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that extreme weather and other climate-related events have significant psychological impacts on individuals' depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep difficulties, social avoidance, irritability, and drug or alcohol abuse[5]. In extreme drought events, loss of identity and livelihood results in symptoms of depression. People displaced or forced to migrate from their homes because of climate-related circumstances may also experience serious mental health consequences[6] [7]. In combating this, the government should make an effort to reduce total exposure to social and environmental stressors, and resources should be provided for people or households experiencing poverty, as this will lead to the overall reduction in cumulative and interactive effects of climate change on mental health.

In Nigeria, the direct consequences of climate change on health also result in cerebra-spinal meningitis, a cardiovascular and respiratory disorder in older citizens, skin cancer, high blood pressure, malaria, cholera, and child and maternal health [8]. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause approximately 250 000 additional yearly deaths from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress alone. World Health Organization estimated the direct damage costs associated with health to be between US$ 2–4 billion per year by 2030. Areas with weak health infrastructure, such as Nigeria, will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond[9]


Health challenges caused by climate change have increased over the years. Therefore, educating all citizens about climate change is crucial as it affects human health. Environmental education, knowledge, and perception of climate change issues inform people's decision-making about reducing the impact of climate change. In line with this development, the government should encourage the best adaptation and mitigation mechanisms among vulnerable communities through environmental education and awareness of the potential health risks associated with climate change and possible ways to sustain the environment. Also, private and public bodies should regularly organize workshops, sensitization programs, seminars, and forums on climate change adaptation and mitigation for citizens in schools, universities, communities, religious houses, motor parks, and public places.

The government should provide adequate funding for groundbreaking research focused on climate change. In the school curriculum in Nigeria, children should have the basic knowledge of a climate-smart lifestyle, environmentally friendly behavior, and protection. The goal is to empower the younger generation with relevant information on choosing professions that will assist society in solving emerging environmental problems due to climate change in Nigeria. Lastly, all stakeholders should improve regional, national, and local capacity to respond to public health needs during climate-related emergencies. Strategic policy frameworks should provide longer-term global health benefits and strengthen support for climate change mitigation actions. From mitigating activities that address modes of transportation, housing design, energy generation, and agricultural systems, society can derive numerous health benefits. These actions will serve as a defense mechanism by protecting citizens from infectious disease outbreaks and the mounting burden of non-communicable diseases by creating robust, flexible, and resilient health systems in Nigeria.


[1] WHO warns climate change to threaten human health in Nigeria | WHO | Regional Office for Africa

[2] Vector Biology | NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

[3] Vector-borne Diseases - Climate Change and Human Health (

[4] Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System | USDA

[5] Trombley, Janna, Stephanie Chalupka, and Laura Anderko. Climate change and mental health. AJN The American Journal of Nursing 117.4 (2017): 44-52

[6] Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K., & Speiser, M. (2017). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica

[7] Cianconi P, Betrò S, and Janiri L. 2020 The impact of climate change on mental health: a systematic descriptive review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11 (2020): 74.

[8] Omoruyi EP, Onafalujo AK. Effects of climate change on health risks in Nigeria. Asian Journal of Business and Management Sciences. 2011;1(1):204-215

[9] Climate change (who. int)

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