BusinessDay

Your health, COVID-19, and harmattan

Harmattan is a dry and dusty season in West Africa between November and March. The season is associated with dry skin, cracked lips, dry, cold and dusty weather, although there is a disparity in the weather changes from state to state within the country.

For instance, while the effect may be mild in some places like Lagos, the northern part of the country mostly experiences the severity of the changes.

The dry season increases the risk of having illnesses like pneumonia, arthritis, and rheumatism. World Health Organization (WHO) data in 2018 shows that there are more than 1.5 million cases of influenza and pneumonia in a year, and pneumonia accounts for 14.89 percent of total deaths in Nigeria. The weather changes also cause catarrh, sore throat, sneezing, and sometimes cough in people.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial for everyone, especially in this dry season, as some of the symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to Harmattan. They have similar symptoms like sore throat, fever, cough, pneumonia although there are still some indicators to differentiate them. COVID-19 signs come with no smell, no sneezing, and loss of taste. It is thus essential to build the immune system to fight against any disease.

Your health is the state of your human body and mind. To maintain and stay healthy in this dry season, individuals should, among others, drink a lot of water, eat more fruits, and keep proper skincare.

Staying hydrated is very crucial to healthy life in this season. In the dry season, the sources of drinking water are: piped water (3.2%), public tap (4.8%), borehole (38.6%), protected dug well (11.7%), unprotected dug well (12%), rainwater (1.2%), the surface of the water body(9.6%), bottled/sachet water (16.3%), and other sources of water in dry season account for 2.6%. This shows that Nigeria’s primary drinking water source in the dry season (38.6%) is boreholes, as almost a third of the household source their water from it.

However, the World Bank report in 2018 shows that over 60 million Nigerians still don’t have access to drinking water, and 80 million are without access to sanitation. This led to the declaration of a state of emergency in the Nigerian government’s water, sanitation, and hygiene sector in 2018. Also, the government launched the National Action Plan to revitalize Nigeria’s water supply, sanitation, and hygiene sector.

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There is a significant improvement in access to water in the country, with about 71% having access to clean water in 2020. However, most households in Nigeria still need to fetch water to access drinking water. While it takes 18.7 minutes to walk to and back from the drinking water source in the rainy season, it takes 20.6 minutes to walk to drinking water in the dry season.

Women and girls often suffer from the burden of fetching water from long distances, which at times lead to the risk of gender-based violence and often affect their school attendance.

Statistics further show that about 7.2 percent of households use several methods to treat water. 2.3 percent of households treat water using chlorine, 2.6 percent allow the water to settle, 1 percent strain through a cloth, and more than 1 percent boil the water. This means that a significant percentage of Nigerians still drink untreated water, as statistics indicated that one-third of the population still drink contaminated water in their home. This can increase the chances of people getting infection or diarrhoea, which is also a sign of COVID-19.

A proper diet containing protein, carbohydrates, a bit of fat and vitamins, and water is also essential in this period. The NLSS 2018 report shows that Nigerians, on average, consume more oils and fats six days per week, vegetables for 5.7 days, grains and flours consumed for 5.3 days, meat and fish consumed 2.6 days per week. The high prevalence of poverty prevented people from eating a balanced diet while several skipped food.

Furthermore, drivers should also make use of appropriate safety caution this season as the weather becomes unclear, especially early morning and late night. Many road accidents often occur during this period due to the foggy weather. Drivers need to make sure they see and be seen by putting on the necessary light in the car.

In addition, another common accident that happens during Harmattan is fire. Nigerians should be more careful in this period to avoid fire accidents. Most fire accidents happen this season because everywhere is dry, and the fire can travel fast without restrictions. World Health Organisation (WHO) data in 2018 shows that fire caused 0.46 percent of total deaths. This ranks Nigeria as number 17.

Finally, Nigerians need to maintain a healthy lifestyle as the weather changes since some of the symptoms and ailments associated with this dry season are similar to COVID-19 symptoms. There should be adequate drinking of clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene, and eating a balanced diet in addition to maintaining all COVID-19 protocols.

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