Port Harcourt residents coming down with respiratory challenges, Physicians raise alarm

Maduka reiterated that the only sensible thing anybody can do at the moment is to continue wearing masks.
Port Harcourt residents coming down with respiratory challenges, Physicians raise alarm

Emerging reports have suggested that amidst health concerns over soot, more residents in Rivers State are beginning to present in their facilities for chronic respiratory challenges.

A physician at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, Dr. Diamond Tonye-Obene, offered an explaination.

“I must admit that our facility has been having increasing cases of respiratory diseases and prevalence of cancer in recent time. It is terrible, especially here in Port Harcourt at this time.

“We can lock ourselves up and ask children not to go outside and play. But the question is: For how long? This also has its own disadvantage,” she bemoaned.

Another public health physician in the UPTH Department of Community Health, Dr. Omosivie Maduka, has expressed deep concerns about the fate of Rivers residents.

Maduka reiterated that the only sensible thing anybody can do at the moment is to continue wearing masks.

“Here in Port Harcourt, we are battling both COVID-19 and soot to stay alive. It is effective to protect the residents from inhaling soot particles. The pores in face masks are too small for any particulate matter, which are not microscopic, to pass into our nostril or lungs.

“But again, who among us can wear a mask for 24 hours or sleep with it? Another measure we have been adopting as people is to bathe at least twice a day or wash before going to bed. The challenge here again is how many residents in Rivers can afford to take a shower twice when water provision is also an issue?” she quipped.

The physician also bemoaned the absence of data to articulate changes in the health profile of the residents since soot started.

She stressed that the only report that is accessible to them is a report jointly compiled by both the Rivers Ministries of Environment and Health.

According to Maduka, the survey covered the number of cases being reported at all health facilities comprising primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions in the state over five years.

“I was part of the research team that put the health report together. What we saw was alarming because we discovered that there was a spike in the number of cases from chronic respiratory illness, hypertension, and diabetes.

“It showed that the cases we recorded in the past two years are far more than what we registered in the last 10 years. I can’t really say much about men. But we have also been seeing more women come down with cancer,” she said.

More children present for asthma, breathing difficulties in Port Harcourt hospital

The public health expert further emphasised that she is disturbed about the long-term effect of soot, noting that it could make more people come down with diseases such as lung cancer, respiratory infections, infertility and skin cancer years down the line.

To buttress her point, the UPTH physician noted that a colleague in the paediatric outpatient clinic had told her that she has also carried out more nebulisation (administering nebuliser) on children with asthma in the past year than she has done in five years.

In medicine, nebuliser is a drug delivery device used to administer medication in the form of a mist inhaled into the lungs.

“Needless to say, soot is affecting our children, adults, and the elderly in Niger Delta. My honest opinion about it is that it is death in slow motion.

“When we clear our noses or throats, these black particles are there. If you make the mistake of working around barefoot in the morning, you will see your soles looking black. It is terrible.

“The regulatory bodies need to wake up to their responsibilities. This is criminal!” she declared.

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