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Mental health plays important part in fight against COVID-19-   NCDC

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says mental health plays important part in the fight against the novel Coronavirus (COVI9-19) pandemic outbreak in the country.

Its Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made this known on Monday in Abuja at the Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19.

Ihekweazu said that no one could manage people in isolation without supporting their mental health.

He said that NCDC now has five key targets for the week in Lagos and Abuja.

They are: “Collection of samples from symptomatic individuals in less than 12 hours of notification of the state team.

“Turnaround time for testing and resulting in less than 24 hours.

“Testing 2,000 samples per day in Lagos and 1,000 per day in Abuja.

“Isolation of patients in less than six hours after a positive result, and isolating every confirmed case,” he said.

Ihekweazu, however, disclosed that NCDC would release a policy on face masks this week for the country.

Earlier, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, said that fake news peddlers had not relented.

Mohammed said it was fake news that quoted him to say there was no hunger in the land.

He said that they were only bent on distracting the Federal Government’s attention from the fight against COVID-19.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Olagoke Olatoye
(NAN)

Abujah Racheal: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Foreign

Australia announces third stage of mental health response to COVID-19

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The Australian government announced the third stage of mental health funding to COVID-19 on Monday.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Monday that the government is providing more than 20 million Australian dollars (about 13 million U.S. dollars) additional funding for research to improve mental health care and reduce suicide rates in Australia.

“It includes funding for coronavirus research in terms of the mental health impacts and it has a particular emphasis on what we’re doing with regards to men’s and boys’ mental health and pharmacogenomics or the tailoring of medicines,” said Hunt.

“Anxiety and depression, other clinical conditions, are associated with the fear that comes with health concerns, the loneliness of isolation, and the deep concern that people have with regards to their employment, or their business,” said Hunt in a press conference in Canberra.

“So the economic consequences of coronavirus can have a huge impact on the mental health, safety, stability and concerns of individuals.”

Hunt also said there are over five consecutive weeks of days in which the growth rate of new cases in Australia has been less than half a percent.

“As of this morning, we are at 7,112 cases and sadly, 102 lives lost,” he said. “Importantly, 6,509 people have recovered, which means there are 501 active cases in Australia.”

According to Hunt, the first stage of mental health package was 74 million Australian dollars (about 48 million U.S. dollars), which addressed in particular outreach services.

The second was 48 million Australian dollars (about 31 million U.S. dollars), which supported the National Mental Health Pandemic Plan.

(XINHUA)

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Spotlight: Concerns arise over mental health issues triggered by pandemic aftermath

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Callum Mitchell, a Londoner who works in the travel industry, has found that the coronavirus lockdown has allowed him to take a step back and work on self-improvement, but he is anxious about the future of the British economy and his particular industry.

Mitchell hasn’t been furloughed, but cannot see how the travel industry can continue in the same manner, and what opportunities there will be for him after it changes. It’s this level of uncertainty that he believes is affecting him mentally – and his friends.

WORRIES FOR FUTURE

Peter Kinderman, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool and a former chair and president of the British Psychological Society, has been researching into mental health and suffering. He believes that most people in Britain will be more concerned about their future, and the economy, opposed to the current pandemic.

“I think that the pandemic itself, the virus, is a significant challenge for people. But I think we understand that collectively and we’re okay with that,” Kinderman told Xinhua.

He stresses that his main concern is how people will react to the future issues that arise – the knock-on effects of the pandemic: potential higher taxation, unemployment, and recession. These have all been factors in psychology studies on mental health after major world crises.

According to Kinderman, in previous pandemics like Black Death that ravaged Europe between 1347 and 1351, the social and psychological structures were challenged by the aftermath of that particular disease event.

The 1918 influenza pandemic also seemed to have major impacts on mental health across Europe, albeit findings have been tied in with the consequences of the World War I.

“My real fear is that as we come out of this with significant numbers of people unemployed, very significant changes to working practices, a lot of people in financial difficulties, massive investments by the government using taxpayers’ money that people will have to pay back … the consequences for the economy and the social disruption that that causes will be where the major mental health, emotional, behavioural consequences form,” Kinderman said.

The professor believes that this could give rise to fear and anxiety in people across Britain, possibly giving way to depression.

“One of the primary reasons people become depressed is that they have very little reinforcing in their life, and if there’s nothing reinforcing about your life during lockdown then it will be very depressing,” he said.

“Following the 2007-08 banking crisis, we saw in the UK somewhere around 700 suicides in a year than statistically would be predicted. So the best estimate is that the banking crisis and consequent unemployment lead to an increase in suicide – especially in men.”

WELLBEING UNDER PRESSURE

Many people across Britain, like Mitchell, are appearing to adapt to lockdown relatively well.

Mitchell has stuck to a routine of making sure to exercise everyday, stay in touch with friends and family, and have all of his chores done by the end of each day. He believes this has been key to keeping him relatively positive.

“Lots of my colleagues are doing research into the question: What is it about the current situation that you find difficult, or indeed uplifting and positive?” Kinderman said.

He said in broad terms the three strongest predictors of wellbeing are physical health, relationships and the sense of meaning and purpose.

“The physical health is under threat at the moment – not only from the virus, but by lack of physical exercise,” he said, adding that there is a strain on relationships as “we in lockdown are not seeing people nor can we talk about things in quite the same way”.

“And the sense of meaning and purpose, and I think one of the things that is worrying about this period is a lot of people seem to be waiting.”

Kinderman believes that many people across Britain are waiting to see what happens when lockdown is lifted – what it means for them and their children. This waiting period is not good for a sense of meaning and purpose, according to Kinderman.

EXITING LOCKDOWN

Like many others, Mitchell said that he is conflicted in what he wants to happen next. He wants the lockdown to end, but also wants to make sure that it is safe to go out.

“As lockdown eases I think we’re going to see a lot of very complicated but essentially normal human reactions to a really unusual situation,” Kinderman said.

He believes that being in this conflicting state is emotionally difficult to process.

“When the lockdown does lift, I think those of us who’ve been paying attention will be worried about a second wave of infection. So we’ll be keen to get out there and do things but we’ll also be worried. We’ll probably be making adjustments, so we’ll probably be outdoors and interacting with people but wearing face masks,” he said.

“That will require adjustment and adjustment is challenging,” he added.

Currently there are a number of studies being undertaken by psychologists to try and better understand how people are being mentally affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Recently, a study led by Professor Richard Bentall at the University of Sheffield and a team of experts found that mental health impacts of the lockdown posed “more stress” to parents with young children.

Another study, which Kinderman is lending his expertise to, is surveying over 90,000 people across Britain to see how they can identify which groups are more at risk and understand the effects of any potentially protective activities people could be engaging in – this will help to inform the advice people are given about how to stay well at home.

But throughout his research on mental health and lockdown, Kinderman is keen to emphasise that humans always find a way to work together when under threat.

“Human beings are absolutely fantastic at, and have probably evolved specifically in order to, work collectively in times of external threat. What we’re seeing now, and what we’ve seen in huge crises before – plagues and wars – is humans coming together. That’s what we do,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

China urges United States to abandon Cold War mentality

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China on Friday urged the United States to abandon its Cold War mentality and ideological bias, and view China and China-U.S. relations in an objective and rational way.

The United States must immediately stop interfering in China‘s internal affairs, harming China‘s interests or undermining China-U.S. relations, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

Zhao made the remarks at a routine news briefing in response to a new China Strategy report by the Trump Administration, which was delivered to the U.S. Congress recently.

“The new strategy report is the same as the U.S. national security strategy report released in 2017,” Zhao said, noting it deliberately distorts China‘s political system and strategic intention, and hypes up the so-called “China threat,” as an excuse to trumpet the continuation of all-dimensional hardline policy against China.

In response to the United States’ erroneous words and deeds to interfere in China‘s internal affairs and undermine China‘s interests in the past two years, the Chinese government has repeatedly stated its solemn position and made firm, strong response, Zhao said.

He emphasized that under the strong leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Chinese people have embarked on a development path suitable to China‘s national conditions, made great achievements and contributed positively to world peace, stability and development.

“We will unswervingly continue to advance along the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and continue to achieve greater victories. No one can stop China‘s development and growth,” said Zhao.

China‘s policy toward the United States is consistent and clear. We are committed to developing a Sino-U.S. relationship featuring non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Zhao said. “At the same time, we will firmly defend China‘s sovereignty, security and development interests.”

A stable and continuously developing Sino-U.S. relationship is in the fundamental interests of the two peoples and is also generally expected by the international community, Zhao said.

He urged the United States to follow the trend of the times and work with China to bring bilateral relations back to the right track.

(XINHUA)

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Researchers push for major environmental leap in Finland post-COVID-19

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The stimulus package after the COVID-19 crisis could facilitate a major leap in environmental protection and the combat against climate change, said Finnish recovery strategist and researchers on Thursday.

Economist Vesa Vihriala, professor of Practice at University of Helsinki, on Thursday underlined the need to give preference to environmental needs as recovery investments start this autumn.

Vihriala is chairman of the economists group appointed earlier by Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Finance to prepare an expert assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis and of measures that can be used to limit the damage to the Finnish economy.

Talking to national radio Yle on Thursday, Vihriala deplored that in the measures taken after the 2008 banking crisis, environmental and climate needs were “pushed aside” by acute financial policy needs. “Now we cannot afford that,” Vihriala told Yle.

Janne Hukkinen, professor of Environmental Policy at Helsinki University also emphasized the importance of environmental investment. He told Yle that Finland has now “an opportunity for a structural change” as major spending is available.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has a strong connection with the demise of the diversity of the ecological system,” said Hukkinen. At a more general level, Finnish researchers warn that if the speed of fighting climate change is not accelerated, there will be more crises like the COVID-19.

Prof. Markku Ollikainen, chairman of the Finnish Climate Panel at the Ministry of Environment, said on Yle that the COVID-19 recovery investments could be the first time additional major input would be available for environmental needs in Finland.

The Finnish Climate Panel has listed projects that could start on short notice in the country, including maritime wind power, energy efficiency overhauls, more geothermal heating systems and public transportation construction.

According to Ollikainen, many of those projects would be actually “spade-ready”.

Researchers have also said the COVID-19 recovery investments could bring Finland to a new level of crisis resilience, and also create export opportunities.

(XINHUA)

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Environment

NGO urges FG to do environmental audit of Nigeria coal mining sites

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A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), on Thursday urged the Federal Government to carry out environmental audit of coal mining sites in the country.

Its Executive Director, Mr David Michael, gave this advice in a statement to newsmen in Abuja.

According to him, coal mining in some communities has led to extensive environmental degradation such as contamination of air, water and soil which continue to negatively affect the health of local communities.

He mentioned that Coal mining was currently being done in Maigaga community in Ako local government area of Gombe, Awo Apkali and Onupi communities in Ankpa LGA of Kogi.

He also mentioned Okobo community in Ankpa LGA of Kogi as well as Owukpa in Ogbadibo LGA of Benue adding that some of the sites were mined by some indigenous cement manufacturers.

Michael  said also that the Federal Government should investigate and correct the human rights violations in coal mining communities in the country.

He said Federal Government needed to wade into the human rights violations in coal mining communities as Nigeria was one of the countries that made commitments against climate change.

“We would like to urge the Federal Ministry of Environment to immediately carry out an environmental audit of all the coal mining sites in Nigeria.

“Furthermore, we would like to urge the Federal Government to immediately investigate and correct the human rights violations in coal mining communities in Nigeria

“(This is) particularly in some communities such as Maigaga, Itobe, Onupi, Awo Akplokuta, Awo Ojuwo, Awo Ate, Ajobe Afeanyaka and Utala communities in Kogi,  Benue and Gombe states,” he said.

Michael said that all mining operations especially those undertaken by multinational companies should adhere to the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights.

“What has been witnessed in Kogi and Gombe states is that fossil fuel companies and large corporations when in need of natural resources, initiate talks with the local communities and consequently enter into agreements whose benefits are heavily skewed against the local people.

“These companies are benefiting greatly from the goodwill of the local communities and are not honouring the agreements entered into.

“There is an urgent need to review the Community Development Agreements signed between the coal mining communities and the companies,” he said.

Michael said Federal Government made commitments under the Paris Agreement, Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which were reductions in greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This was where all countries that signed the UNFCCC were asked to publish their commitments to fight climate change.

“In order to reduce carbon emissions, Nigeria should therefore ensure the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions starting with the phasing out of coal-fired plants.

“Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa should be a beacon for other African states by accelerating its national plans that would see a rapid, just transition towards 100 per cent renewable energy for all Nigerians,” he said.

Edited By: Chidinma Agu/Donald Ugwu (NAN)

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Judiciary

Rights groups seek mental evaluation of Lagos mother who killed own baby

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Human rights groups have appealed to the Attorney-General of Lagos State,  Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), to compel one Miss Funmilola Adisa to undergo psychiatric evaluation for allegedly killing her baby.

The rights groups, Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI) and Postpartum Support Network (PSN) made the appeal in a letter they sent to the attorney-general.

The letter, dated May 19 was signed by the Director of PRAI, Mr Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem. The letter also included an analysis of Adisa’s condition made by PSN.

According to Mr Onyedikachi Ekwerike, a clinical psychologist and founder of PSN, some clinicians have made an analysis of the viral video in which 22-year-old Adisa admitted committing infanticide.

“A detailed analysis of the interview by our clinicians showed that Adisa may be suffering from severe psychiatric illness called postpartum psychosis.

“Postpartum psychosis is an acute mental illness that can affect women after childbirth and it is characterised by extreme difficulty in responding emotionally to a newborn.

“It can often include thoughts of harming the child. Around one in 1,000 women suffer postpartum psychosis,” he said.

The PSN founder explained the symptoms of postpartum psychosis to include delusions, hallucinations, inability to bond with baby and difficulty responding emotionally to baby.

Other symptoms are irritability and confusion, lack of emotional response or blank facial expression and thoughts of suicide or belief that family are better off without them and thoughts of harming the child.

Ekwerike said that from the analysis of the video, Adisa possessed at least five of the symptoms of the illness, noting that Adisa’s baby could have been saved if the mental condition had been detected early.

“If Adisa was screened for postpartum depression and psychosis during pregnancy and after childbirth, her medical providers may have picked up her symptoms and provided her the support she needs to prevent this tragedy.”

Adetola-Kazeem and Ekwerike appealed to the attorney-general to use his good offices to ensure a detailed independent psychiatric and psychological evaluation of Adisa without delay.

“Necessary treatment should be administered rather than going through the route of a criminal trial which could further make her condition worse, making her a threat to herself and those around her,” they said.

In a video that went viral, Adisa admitted to drowning her one-year-old daughter in a bucket of water.

She expressed no regrets for the infanticide and on May 11, she voluntarily reported herself to the police.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

 

 

 

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Sport

Fury ‘mentally happy’ to be in ring, eyes Klitschko-like reign

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Tyson Fury said he is no longer boxing for fame, money or titles but that stepping into the ring keeps him “mentally happy” as he targets a long reign as the world heavyweight champion.

Fury stunned boxing fans in 2015 when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko for the IBF, WBA and WBO belts but he later struggled with mental health, drinking and drug use which derailed his career.

Fury, who overwhelmed Deontay Wilder in February to seize the WBC crown with a seventh round stoppage, said in March that he would only fight twice more but the 31-year-old now plans to follow in Klitschko’s footsteps and fight till he is 40.

“I’m happy with where I am in my career… If I never have another boxing fight, I’ll be happy.

“I’ve completed the game, I’ve won every single belt in boxing,” Fury told Sky Sports, adding he was happy to keep taking on contenders.

“Klitschko did it until he was 40. A lot of the great champions are continuing and continuing.

“I ain’t boxing for money, I ain’t boxing for fame, I ain’t boxing for a belt. I’m boxing because it keeps me mentally happy and I like to do it.

“Nothing to prove to anybody. Not one thing to prove at all but I box now because I love boxing and I’ve been doing it all my life. Why walk away?”

Klitschko, considered one of the greatest boxers of all time, reigned as heavyweight champion for a total of 12 years and beat a record 23 opponents in title fights.

With Anthony Joshua holding the WBA, WBO and IBF titles, a unification bout between the British pair is on the cards but Fury is set to fight Wilder in a rematch first while Joshua is due to take on Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev this year.

The Las Vegas rematch between Fury and Wilder was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and now looks unlikely to happen before November or December at the earliest, with promoters stating they would not fight behind closed doors.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

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Health

Consultant psychiatrist advises Nigeria on mental health to avert depression

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A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Grace Ijarogbe, has advised Nigerians to take care of their mental health to avert depression and other mental problems, after effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Ijarogbe, who works at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, gave the advice on Monday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.

She said COVID-19 was likely to leave many families and individuals mentally devastated and unstable.

Ijarogbe advised people to make their mental health a priority by doing everything possible to remain mentally fit.

According to her, many Nigerians will have depression and mental problems after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is due to hunger, financial challenges, unwanted pregnancy, lost of loved ones, domestic violence, unmet needs, lost of jobs and businesses,” the consultant psychiatrist said.

Ijarogbe said that the situation might in turn increase the risk of suicidal attempts and drug abuse, among others.

The expert urged Nigerians to strive to make themselves happy, stay positive and always share their thoughts with positive people to enhance their mental health.

According to her, there cannot be health without a good state of mental health, one should be surrounded with positive people for wellbeing.

She said that being happy would impact on one’s level of productivity at workplace.

Ijarogbe said that happiness also impact on relationship with people, lengthen one’s lifespan and could help one enhance healthy blood pressure level.

“If one is in a happy state, it means less of troubles, less of stress and better wellbeing.

“But, if one is unhappy, there will be depression, suicide tendencies, anxiety, stress, mental disorder and evil thoughts.

“Depression is a significant problem that has affected many Nigerians, particularly youths which has made them to be drug addicts.

“Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people who die by suicide.

“About 50 per cent of individuals in high income countries who died by suicide have major depressive disorder at their time of death.

“But, constantly surrounding yourself with positive people will help manage stress and depression, overcome challenges and be positive in life.

“We need to create time for relaxation and look beyond the effects of the COVID-19 and economic situation of the country; we need to focus on positive in every bad situation,” Ijarogbe said.

The consultant psychiatrist, therefore, called on stakeholders on mental issues to scale up the campaign and awareness on mental health matters.

She said that it would assist in inculcating positive thoughts in people.

Edited By: JaneFrances Oraka/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Environment

Environmentalist urges strict action against oil sector’s Greenhouse gas emissions

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An environmentalist, Mr Emmanuel Emechete, has urged  the Federal Government to take strict actions against the increasing Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions coming  from the country’s oil and gas sector.

 

Emechete made the appeal  in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Lagos.

 

The expert said  that the government should prioritise saving  lives and  future generations by protecting the environment from  GhG emissions,  the monetary gains notwithstanding.

 

“The Nigerian oil sector,  apart from its direct emissions of GhG,  also contributes to a large part of the total emissions in the country indirectly,  through its many products used by millions of Nigerians.

 

“The oil and gas sector is a major producer of Greenhouse gases. However,  recent technology to turn gas to liquid fuel has been introduced such as  the Escravos Gas-to-Liquid plant located in the shores of the Niger-Delta region and Lagos State.

 

“The government needs to be more strict with the companies and multinationals in the sector to prevent them from ruining  the nation’s environment.

 

“Everything should not be about monetary value, we need to think of the harm our actions and inactions bring to our health and  future generations,” the expert said.

 

Emechete said  that the nation’s oil and gas sector produced all the major greenhouse gas categories and the country should take necessary actions to curb these emissions to save the lives of Nigerians.

 

“Statistics show that Nigeria’s oil sector is said to be the biggest emitters of Greenhouse gases.

 

“Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Methane (CH4) Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Water Vapour, and Ozone (O3) Water Vapor (H2O) Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)etc. are the major sources of Greenhouse gases.”

 

He said that  the oil and gas sector had been  producing a large quantity of these harmful gases on daily basis.

 

“Many of the oil fields, plants and refineries work non stop and have been doing so for years.

 

“The volume of GhG they emit per week surpasses what one can imagine,” Emechete said.

 

In addition, he said  that greenhouse gases made the earth warmer and caused global warming,  leading to climate change (or variation as some experts would prefer to put it.)

 

“This greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop some of the solar radiation that is normally expected to leave the earth after it has reached the earth’s surface.

 

“Greenhouse gases reduces production and reproduction in plant, animals and humans. They affect life expectancy and health.

 

“They damage crops and the whole ecosystem. They make the environment unsuitable for many animals, humans and vulnerable species of animals and plants,” he said.

 

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Peter Dada (NAN)

 

 

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Environment

Environmental lawyers demand action on fish death in Niger Delta

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Environmental lawyers in the Niger Delta have expressed concerns over the looming public health danger occasioned by the contamination and massive death of fish along the Atlantic coastline of the region.

The lawyers under the aegis of the Association of Environmental Lawyers of Nigeria (AELN) urged the Federal Government to take urgent steps to check the increased toxicity of the nation’s territorial waters.

The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that residents along the Atlantic coastline in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers have reported massive death of croaker fish floating and littering the coastline since February.

The group made the call in a joint statement by Prof. Sam Dike, the President AELN and Mr Iniuro Wills, the President Ijaw Professionals Association, Homeland chapter on Thursday in Yenagoa.

Mr Kennedy Woryi, the Secretary, AELN who also signed the statement, called on the Federal Government to urgently initiate a full scale independent investigation into the matter with a view to saving lives.

The association noted that in the last eight weeks, varying from location to location, communities along the Atlantic coast in the Niger Delta had been inundated with masses of dead contaminated fishes washing up on their shores.

”This strange phenomenon portends grave danger to the affected states and communities as it will further compound the public health and economic complications that they are still struggling to grapple with as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

”Due to limited awareness of the health consequences, rural poverty and slow action by governments at all levels, some community dwellers have been selling and consuming the dead contaminated fishes, some of which may find their way into the markets and meal tables, in neighbouring communities and cities.

”This marine disaster and the global coronavirus crisis together pose a threat of double jeopardy for Nigeria’s coastal communities and our territorial marine ecology.

”There is need for quick action by the state and federal governments to combat the strange and continuing incidence of masses of dead and contaminated fishes, washing up ashores and beaches along the Atlantic coast.

“Worst hit are Bonny, Foropa, Sobiekiri, Okololaunch areas to Light House all the way to Ifoko in Andoni area.  Numerous other coastal communities of the Akassa Kingdom, Twon-Brass and other such communities in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom are affected.

“There are reports that coastal communities in Ondo, Lagos and Cross River States may also be affected,” it said.

It added that some dwellers in the affected communities have been harvesting and selling these fishes to the general public.

The group described the development as unfortunate, saying that the communities and the general public were yet to be sensitised about the dangers of consuming hazardous dead fish.

According to AELN, the stench of dead fishes has also polluted the air around the affected communities adding that it is therefore imperative to ensure the restoration of the ambient air and polluted marine ecosystem.

”The impact of the disaster extends to most of the coastal states of Nigeria and will therefore require an inclusive and cross-cutting plan of action for verification of causation, impact scoping and adequate remediation.

”It is against this backdrop that we are calling on the Federal Government to promptly institute a full scale independent investigation of this marine pollution disaster by a multi stakeholder panel of experts, reflecting the appropriate environmental and marine related agencies.

“It should include experts representing affected communities, relevant state government agencies, the private sector of the petroleum and marine/maritime industries and credible environmental NGOs.

“This is without prejudice to the ongoing investigations by various state governments.

”At the conclusion of investigations, all persons or organisations directly culpable (if any), for this disaster on our coastal populations, no matter how highly connected, should be brought to book.

“The culprit should be compelled to restore the environment, pay adequate compensation to all affected communities and face stiff sanctions.

”We particularly call on the federal and state governments to take accelerated action on all fronts against this disaster and the looming danger that official inaction may pose,” the association said.

Meanwhile, the National Oil Spills Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) on Thursday said that its investigations on the massive death of the fishes had traced the incident to the discharge of toxic industrial and domestic wastes entering the water bodies.

Mr Idris Musa, the Director-General of the NOSDRA told NAN that the agency discovered that the dead fishes and water sediments were polluted by heavy metals in high concentrations beyond regulatory limits.

Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu/Grace Yussuf (NAN)

 

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Health

WHO recommends increased investments to avert mental health crisis

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for urgent need to increase investments in services for mental health toward averting surge in mental health conditions in the coming months.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, in a statement on Thursday, said the COVID-19 pandemic was highlighting the need to urgently increase investments in mental health services for the populace.

Ghebreyesus said the call was necessitated due to a policy brief on ‘COVID-19 and mental health’ issued by the United Nations.

He said that the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health was extremely concerning.

“Social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often employment,” the director-general said.

According to him, reports already indicated an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety in a number of countries.

“A study in Ethiopia, in April 2020, reported a three-fold increase in the prevalence of symptoms of depression compared to estimates from Ethiopia before the epidemic.

“Specific population groups are at particular risk of COVID-19 related psychological distress.

“Frontline healthcare workers, faced with heavy workloads, life-or-death decisions, and risks of infection, are particularly affected,” he said.

The health agency chief said that during the pandemic in China, healthcare workers reported high rates of depression as 50 per cent; anxiety 45 per cent, and insomnia 34 per cent.

He added that in Canada, 47 per cent of healthcare workers reported a need for psychological support.

“Children and adolescents are also at risk.

“Parents in Italy and Spain reported that their children had difficulties concentrating, as well as irritability, restlessness and nervousness.

“Stay-at-home measures have come with a heightened risk of children witnessing or suffering violence and abuse.

“Children with disabilities, children in crowded settings and those who live and work on the streets are particularly vulnerable,” he said.

Ghebreyesus noted that other groups that were at particular risk were women, particularly those who juggled home-schooling, working from home and household tasks.

He added that older people and people with pre-existing mental health conditions were also at risk.

“A study carried out with young people with a history of mental health needs living in UK, reports that 32 per cent of them agreed that the pandemic had made their mental health much worse.

“An increase in alcohol consumption is another area of concern for mental health experts.

“Statistics from Canada report that 20 per cent of 15 to 49 year-old, have increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic,” the WHO chief said.

He maintained that the increase in people in need of mental health or psychosocial support had been compounded by the interruption to physical and mental health services in many countries.

“In addition to the conversion of mental health facilities into care facilities for people with COVID-19, care systems have been affected by mental health staff being infected with the virus and the closing of face-to-face services.

“Community services, such as self-help groups for alcohol and drug dependence, have, in many countries, been unable to meet for several months.

“It is now crystal clear that mental health needs must be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a collective responsibility of governments and civil society, with the support of the whole United Nations System.

“A failure to take people’s emotional wellbeing seriously will lead to long-term social and economic costs to society,” Ghebreyesus said.

According to him, it is critical that people living with mental health conditions have continued access to treatment.

“Changes in approaches to provision of mental healthcare and psychosocial support are showing signs of success in some countries.

“In Madrid, when more than 60 per cent of mental health beds were converted to care for people with COVID-19, where possible, people with severe conditions were moved to private clinics to ensure continuity of care.

“Local policy-makers identified emergency psychiatry as an essential service to enable mental healthcare workers to continue outpatient services over the phone.

“Home visits were organised for the most serious cases.

“Teams from Egypt, Kenya, Nepal, Malaysia and New Zealand, among others, have reported creating increased capacity of emergency telephone lines for mental health to reach people in need,” Ghebreyesus said.

He added that support for community actions that strengthened social cohesion and reduced loneliness, particularly for the most vulnerable, such as older people, must continue.

“Such support is required from government, local authorities, the private sector and members of the general public, with initiatives such as provision of food parcels, regular phone check-ins with people living alone, and organisation of online activities for intellective and cognitive stimulation,” he said.

Also, Dr Dévora Kestel, Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, WHO, said the scaling-up and reorganisation of mental health services that were needed globally was an opportunity to build a mental health system fit for the future.

“This means developing and funding national plans that shift care away from institutions to community services.

“This aims at ensuring coverage for mental health conditions in health insurance packages and building the human resource capacity to deliver quality mental health and social care in the community,” Kestel said.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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Environmentalist blames poor power supply for increasing Greenhouse gases emission

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An Environmentalist, Mr Emmanuel Emechete, has blamed the poor power supply in Nigeria for increasing rate of Greenhouse Gases (GhG) emission into the atmosphere.

Emechete, also a climate change enthusiast, made the assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Lagos.

Wikipedia defines Greenhouse gas as “a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range.

“Greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect on planets. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.”

Emechete said: “One way to reduce Nigeria’s contribution to global Greenhouse gases emission is for a more stable electricity supply.

“One major source of Greenhouse gases emission in Nigeria is attributable to energy usage; epileptic power supply is largely to be blamed.

“If we can have constant electricity supply, since we use hydrogen electricity supply system mostly, then, this would help reduce the use of power generators in households and businesses.

“Data has shown that a high level incidence of power outage of 81 per cent was observed to have encouraged a high incidence of 78.6 per cent of electric generator use in the country.

“It is, therefore, pertinent that putting our electricity supply in good condition would help reduce the use of fossil fuel and in turn the emissions of GHG.

“Since we do not have a good electricity supply system and given that a very large percentage of our economy is dependent on oil (fossil fuels), it brings us back to fact that we have to look at what best works for us.”

He also called on the government to enact policies that would stop importation of fairly used electronics which was believed to contain Chlorofluorocarbons, that is a conduit for GhG.

“Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is also one Greenhouse gas that we need to watch out for.

“Although, it is no longer used in modern refrigerators and other domestic cooling systems, as you know, how many Nigerians buy new products?

“We still depend on a wide range of ‘second hand’/used products popularly known as “Tokunbo”. This items are usually shipped from Europe, U.S or other countries outside the country.

“CFCs can still be found in many home appliance in Nigeria; we need the government to put out policies to fight this. There should be a stop to all use of such products.

“If this is implemented, it would also have an effect in the frozen food business as many of them still use such products and equipment.

“What we can do is to be more tactical in our approach,” Emechete told NAN.

The expert said Greenhouse gases could be reduced by putting a stop to bush and waste burning by both governments and individuals.

“We can sensitise Nigerians on the dangers of Greenhouse gases on the environment through advocacy and education.

“We need to expose the dangers of Greenhouse gases on human health, food production and the environment,” he said.

Edited By: Bayo Sekoni/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)

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UN chief calls for attention to mental health problems caused by COVID-19

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United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for attention to mental health problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting that “the COVID-19 virus is not only attacking our physical health, it is also increasing psychological suffering,” the UN chief said that “grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics and uncertainty and fear for the future” might all cause psychological suffering.

“Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, are some of the greatest causes of misery in our world,” Guterres said in his video message marking the launch of a policy brief titled “COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health.”

“After decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress,” Guterres said.

Noting that those most at risk are frontline healthcare workers, older people, adolescents and young people, those with pre-existing mental health conditions and those caught up in conflicts and crises, Guterres said that “we must help them and stand by them.”

“This is the background to the policy brief on COVID-19 and mental health that we are launching today,” he said.

He warned that even when the pandemic is brought under control, grief, anxiety and depression will continue to affect people and communities.

“Policies must support and care for those affected by mental health conditions, and protect their human rights and dignity. Lockdowns and quarantines must not discriminate against those with poor mental health,” he said.

Guterres said that “as we recover from the pandemic, we must shift more mental health services to the community, and make sure mental health is included in universal health coverage.”

He urged governments, civil society, health authorities and others to come together urgently to address the mental health dimension of this pandemic.

“And I call on governments in particular to announce ambitious commitments on mental health at the upcoming World Health Assembly,” he added.

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the 73rd World Health Assembly will be virtual. The agenda has been reduced to fit into two days, starting on May 18.

(XINHUA)

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Political will fundamental to realizing more just, prosperous Iraq: UN envoy

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A more prosperous and inclusive Iraq can be achieved provided the political will is there, a top UN official in the country told the Security Council during a virtual meeting held on Tuesday.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert briefed ambassadors on latest developments, including the appointment last week of new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, and the majority of his 22-member cabinet, following months of political infighting and stalemate.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has quieted months of corresponding protests, which saw Iraqis taking to the streets to call for an end to corruption, unemployment and poor public services, the UN envoy hoped that the new government will be guided by their demands and aspirations, for the good of the country.

“I remain convinced that a more just, prosperous and resilient Iraq can emerge from the current compounded crises. But for that to happen, political will is fundamental,” said Hennis-Plasschaert, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq.

“Iraq must move away from endless crisis management towards a more productive approach, building resilience at both the state and society level. Short-term political and private calculations do not serve Iraq’s long-term interests, on the contrary. And yes, the challenges are many; but so are the opportunities.”

The UN envoy noted that the new prime minister’s priorities include tackling the pandemic, reforming the security sector, strengthening the economy, and fighting corruption, which she characterized as “perhaps the greatest source of dysfunction” in Iraq.

“These worthy aspirations must be turned into action urgently,” she said.

“And let me emphasize: Iraq does not have the luxury of time. Nor can it afford destructive petty politics.”

Iraq has long battled political turmoil but also social, economic and security crises. COVID-19 has added to these challenges by bringing commercial activity to a standstill and putting the livelihoods of millions in peril.

Oil-dependent Iraq has also seen monthly revenues from this commodity drop from 6 billion U.S. dollars to 1.4 billion dollars between February and April. Additionally, the economy is projected to contract by nearly 10 percent this year, with poverty rates rising to around 40 percent.

As Hennis-Plasschaert pointed out, these developments are occurring at a time when it will become even harder for Iraq to access international funding. The need to broaden its revenue base could not be more apparent.

“Time and again, it has been made clear that Iraq should reduce its oil dependency; repair and upgrade critical infrastructure; temper its ballooning, inefficient public service; build viable and responsive state institutions; combat patronage and clientelism; fight corruption, and incentivize the domestic private sector while attracting foreign investment,” she stated.

Meanwhile, Iraq continues to bear the impact of domestic, regional and international security developments.

Hennis-Plasschaert reported that although “inflammatory rhetoric” and a “pattern” of attacks and counter-attacks have tapered off in recent weeks, they remain a constant threat.

“And I can only emphasize: the way armed elements, armed entities, with differing ties to the state, choose to act in this moment will determine how Iraqis – and, indeed, many others – will perceive them,” she added.

“Once again, Iraq cannot afford to be used as a theatre for different power competitions and/or proxy conflicts.”

The UN official also warned against the resurgence of violent extremism, stating that the best way for the government to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other groups is to provide for citizens by addressing the root causes of their grievances.

(XINHUA)

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China says experimental spaceship capsule makes successful return

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The return capsule of an experimental Chinese spaceship on Friday successfully reached its landing site in North China, according to state media.

According to the China Manned Space Agency, the capsule reached the Dongfeng landing site in the Northern Inner Mongolia region.

The prototype for the new generation of manned Chinese spaceships was launched by the Long March 5B carrier rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the Southern Hainan Island on Tuesday.

The agency said an experimental cargo return craft that was launched with the same carrier rocket malfunctioned during its return to Earth on Wednesday.

A successful test of the rocket and capsule was an important prerequisite for China’s ambitious space programme, which plans missions to the moon and Mars and the construction of a space station.

The first Chinese mission to Mars, which is set to use the Long March 5B rocket, is scheduled for July/August, with the spaceship scheduled to reach Mars in February.

However, another unmanned flight to the moon was planned for the end of 2020.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Silas Nwoha (NAN)

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Environmentalist harps on tree planting to reduce carbon footprints

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An environmentalist, Mr Gafar Odubote, has harped on the necessity of tree planting to reduce carbon footprints in the atmosphere.

 

Odubote, the Global Head of Social Media at Let’s Do it World (LDIW), a  Non-Governmental Organisation(NGO) with interest in the environment , said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Lagos.

 

The environmentalist said  that this would help to protect the depleting ozone layer as a result of increasing greenhouse  gases.

 

A carbon footprint is the total gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual,  an event , and organisation or a product expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.

 

He said, “Planting trees will go along way in offsetting carbon emissions and it is one of the easiest and cheapest remedies to carbon footprint.

 

“According to statistics, 40 billion tons of Carbondioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels are being added to the atmosphere every year globally.

 

“As a tree matures, it can consume 22kg of CO2 per year (among other greenhouse gases like ozone), and releases oxygen for us to breathe.”

 

Odubote said that some researchers  had  also discovered  that the earth’s ecosystems could support another 900 million hectares (2.2 billion acres) of forests, which is 25 per cent of more forested area than we have now.

 

“They estimate that, by planting more than a half trillion trees, we can capture about 205 gigatons of carbon (a gigaton is 1 billion metric tons), reducing atmospheric carbon by about 25 per cent.

 

“According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the shade from trees, together with the water vapour they release, can reduce peak temperatures by as much as 20–45°F (11–25°C) compared to unshaded areas.”

 

Odubote decried the attitude of some  Nigerians toward tree planting as he called on the government to follow up on its afforestation policies.

 

“We do not  treat trees right in this country. The trees planted on the median reserved as green areas – are most times destroyed by motorists, especially, commercial bus drivers.

 

“All stakeholders need to unite and see tree planting as a way of survival and preventing a climate change pandemic.

 

“The government should implement “one household – one tree programme”. It is not only about tree planting but also the survival and sustainability of those trees,” he said.

 

He said that the  government had some plans in place but could not be implemented due to  inadequate monitoring.

 

“For example, few months ago, the Minister of Environment inaugurated the implementation committee on afforestation, drawn from key stakeholders across the country with the responsibility of planting 25 million trees nationwide,” Odubote said.

 

In addition, he called for a sustainable plan that would  ensure that  trees survive in the country.

 

“The government should set up carbon reduction schemes and encourage private companies to invest in tree planting.

 

“For example,  companies and individuals whose products tend to pollute the environment  can purchase a credit equivalent to a proportion of CO2 generated.

 

” The funds realised from it  is paid into an emissions reduction programme  for planting trees or investing in renewable energy projects,” he said.

Edited By: Gregg Mmaduakolam/Peter Dada (NAN)

 

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Man City’s Walker says his mental health is at risk due to attention

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Manchester City defender Kyle Walker on Friday said he felt he was being harassed and his mental health was at risk because of the attention he was receiving after reportedly breaking Covid-19 social distancing rules.

The England full back said he went to Sheffield to see his sister on Wednesday to give her a birthday present and hugged her, before going to his parents’ house to pick up some home-cooked meals.

Walker breached lockdown rules in April when, according to media reports, he hosted a party involving two sex workers.

In a statement on Twitter, Walker said he understood he was a role model but said the attention was affecting his entire family.

“I have recently gone through one of the toughest periods of my life, which I take full responsibility for.

“However, I now feel as though I am being harassed. This is no longer solely affecting me, but affecting the health of my family and my young children too.

“I don’t even feel safe in the confines of my home. Why should they have to feel like that too? Who deserves that?” asked Walker.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Salif Atojoko (NAN)

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Environmentalist tasks FG on policies, measures to avert flood disasters

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An environmentalist, Ms Gloria Bulus has tasked the Federal Government on proactive measures and policies to avert flood disasters in the country.

Bulus, the founder of Bridge-That-Gap initiative, an environmental NGO made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Lagos.

The expert said that it was the role of government to avert flood by ensuring there were policies to address it and its attendant effects.

“There should be strong legislations, policies and standards for flood management. Proper land use planning should also be put in place to reduce the risk of flood and any likely damage.

“The government should also implement an effective early warning system; establish emergency management programmes to reduce the residual risk of flooding and damages caused by flooding.

“Aside these, the government can support and assist communities in the implementation of appropriate flood mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of flooding.

“They should ensure that relevant flood information is available to promote community awareness and facilitate decision making.

“There should be provision of resources during significant floods and storms to assist communities in reducing flood risk and human suffering,” the expert told NAN.

Bulus also tasked the government to assist in building the capacities of communities to mitigate flood using community based approach, resources and relevant agencies.

“The good thing is that government has agencies such as National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the State Emergency Management Agencies (SEMA) that have responsibility in terms of disasters and emergencies such as flood.

“It is expected that their capacity is adequately strengthened and well equipped to avert the occurrence of flood.

“Measures can be put in place to avert seasonal flooding such as erecting flood barriers and natural flood management which environmentalists encourage a lot.

“Nature-based solutions in mitigating floods with the application of indigenous methods are more sustainable.

“Also dredging of rivers, some experts are of the opinion that while dredging can improve general land drainage, it cannot prevent rivers from flooding due to the huge volumes of water involved,” Bulus said.

She also called for evacuation of people and property out of risk areas such as elevated structures, property buyouts, permanent relocation, zoning, subdivision, construction standards and building codes.

“Forecasting, early warning systems, emergency plans and risk mapping are also important in flooding prevention not leaving behind sustainable and properly constructed drainage systems,” she said.

Edited By: Edwin Nwachukwu/Grace Yussuf (NAN)

 

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Environmentalist harps on benefits of tree planting to curb diseases

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An Environmentalist, Mr Gafar Odubote, has harped on the healing and therapeutic benefits of tree planting to curb diseases.

Odubote, the Global Head of Social Media at Let’s Do It World (LDIW) an environmental NGO, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Lagos.

The expert said that from the historical background, trees had been known to provide health benefits.

“Trees do not only provide us oxygen, preserve the soil and beautify our environment, they also aid the cure of diseases and the improvement of our health.

“The use of trees in curing diseases and improving people’s health is the foundation of modern-day medicine.

“Researchers are using compounds extracted from trees in developing drugs.

“For example, the bark of trees, their leaves, fruits, seeds and roots contain natural compounds that are organic in fighting diseases.

“We use neem (Dogo Yaro) leaves, olive oil, walnuts, birches, mango barks and others to cure certain illnesses,’’ the expert said.

Odubote also said that deforestation activities across the world had been linked to the emergence of disease outbreaks among mankind.

“Tree planting improves aeration and no significant research has shown that trees can substantially avert airborne diseases.

“However, I will like us to look at how lack of forests (deforestation) is escalating diseases.’’

He quoted some Harvard scientists as saying that deforestation is causing a lot of disease outbreaks in the world.

“People disturbing the ecosystem balance are unleashing some diseases which are normally contained by forests.

“Throughout human history, pathogens have emerged from forests.

“For example, Ebola virus from DRC, Zika virus from Zika forest of Uganda, yellow fever and some malaria-carrying mosquitoes are from tropical forests.

“What scientists are saying is that, once those forests are cleared either for agriculture or other human-induced methods, it activates a complex chain of ecological changes that makes those diseases come to the land.

“Forests create shades and absorb excess water; once they are gone, it creates swampy areas that are conducive for mosquito breeding.

“People need to understand the importance of tree planting and see it as a necessity.

“There should be a sustainable plan to ensure that trees survive,’’ Odubote said.

Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Environmental Pollution: Foundation to seek legal action against Dongote group

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The Mona Audu Foundation, an NGO, says it will institute a legal action against Aliko Dangote Group of companies for polluting the environment through its activities over a decade in Kogi.

The President of the Foundation, Princess Zahrah Audu made this known in a statement on Friday in Abuja.

Audu said the action was on behalf of the people of Okaba/Odagbo in Ankpa and Obajana axis of the state.

She alleged that the companies over a decade had been spewing fumes and greenhouse gases into the environment.

She said that the emission of gas in the area had constituted a great deal of long term health risk for residents and future generations.

“He has the largest carbon footprint in Africa. He has destroyed the communities of Okaba/Odagbo in Ankpa, where he mines coal to power his factories.

“The residents have begun to develop health issues ranging from eye problems to respiratory difficulties due to the poor mining methods applied in harnessing the coal for powering his factory,“ she said.

Audu further alleged that the company trucks had completely destroyed the roads in the state around Okaba/Odagbo in Ankpa to Itobe to Ajeokuta.

According to her, in spite of the exploitation of resources by the Dangote in these areas, the people lacked infrastructures and they are not employed by the companies.

“With no significant investments in these communities, he continues to exploit our people and resources,“ she said.

Edited By: Grace Yussuf (NAN)

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