Since 1950, the human population has increased by nearly 200%; fossil fuel consumption by over 550%. We have cleared nearly half of temperate and tropical forests, we use nearly half of accessible fresh water every year, and we appropriate about half of the planets livable surface to feed ourselves. These are activities we engage in that threaten our ecosystem. Particular to the Nigerian narrative; Oil was discovered in the Niger Delta in 1956. Nigeria was then a British protectorate and the detection of oil was made in a joint operation between BP and Shell. But what should have been Nigeria’s blessing has turned out to be our curse! 

Today more than 86 million Nigerians live in poverty – half the population – even though we are Africa’s largest oil producer, generating 300 million liters of crude oil every day. During this process, forty million liters – the equivalent of two hundred and fifty thousand barrels of oil – are spilled into our Niger Delta environment every year.

I grew up in the Niger Delta and lived in a slum where we experienced the effects of this catastrophe. Our communities are poisoned with hydrocarbons and we are forced to breathe polluted air. During the rainy seasons, the water from the Atlantic Ocean overflows their banks. That surface water is mixed with the products of oil spillages and waste. It comes into our homes, contaminating our cooking pots and food! The result is an increase in respiratory infections, diarrhea, sore eyes, itchy skin, heart and lung diseases, infertility, childhood diseases, and cancers. Recently, I spoke about this as a delegate speaker at the One Young World summit in London.

One young world is a global platform that gathers global youth leaders and world leaders from all countries of the world just like the United Nations model to connect with world leaders, industry leaders and influencers to raise global issues and urge global leaders to take action. This year was  a gathering of over 2000 delegates from over 190 countries with attendance of global leaders Ban Ki-Moon (Former UN secretary General), Meghan Markle {Duchess of Sussex), Mary Robinson (Ireland’s first female President), Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway’s first female prime minister), Graca Machel (Mozambican former Minister of Education and former first lady for both Mozambique and South Africa) Ricardo Lagos (Former President of Chile) and more, with speakers such as Richard Branson, Ellie Goulding, Paul Polman, Edward Enninful and more (Included young delegate speakers and leaders of industries, including myself)

My speech was on the “Effects of Climatic Change on Planetary Health and Wellbeing” [Watch the Speech HERE:  https://youtu.be/X5W6lyMYDOU ] I was invited as a Speaker to the London 2019 summit through my community medical outreach work in local communities through my organization 360degreeHEALTH NETwork which focuses on bridging the gap in health care service delivery to vulnerable and underserved communities in sub Saharan Africa and engaging the government through advocacy to improve on health access for vulnerable communities in Nigeria. Our goal is to bring free to affordable medical care to 70% of vulnerable populations in sub-Saharan Africa through medical outreaches and advocacy for health care equity by 2025 which is a mission that requires a global sustainable effort. As a Public Health advocate; Speaking in a Global stage was part of my Public Health Advocacy blueprint to sustain a conversation about our Planetary health. Never before has humanity’s footprint on Earth’s natural systems been so large. We are outstripping available resources from the only habitable planet we know. And it’s affecting our health. Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, and other factors affect where, when, and how intensely infectious diseases emerge. Air pollution from industrial emissions or smoke from fires clearing forests for agricultural use can lead to cardiorespiratory illnesses and other diseases.

Everything is connected – what we do to the world comes back to affect us, and not always in ways that we would expect. Understanding and acting upon these challenges call for massive collaboration across disciplinary and national boundaries to safeguard our health. During the summit in London; I engaged in a conversation with global leaders and influencers such as Mary Robinson; Ireland’s First Female President, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights until 2002 and United Nations Special Envoy for Climatic Change, with Michael Izza; CEO Institute of Charted Accountants (International) and Manoly Sisavanh, Deputy Country Director Of Wildlife Conservation Society of Laos  in a conversation about the effects of Climatic Changes on Health just before my speech presentation. I also deliberated on issues related to poverty eradication in sub-Saharan Africa with Nobel Laureate Prof. Muhammad Yunus; the father of both social business and microfinance. He is the founder of the Grameen Bank and more than 50 other companies in Bangladesh. For his leadership, constant innovation, and impact, he’s been awarded by Fortune Magazine in 2012 as “one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our times.” He is advocating for the New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions in the next 20 years. He is one of the living legends of the 21st Century.

As a Health Care Provider,  Public Health advocate, International Speaker, global change-maker and One Young World Health Ambassador; I will keep pioneering initiatives to address natural and human activities that threatens our existence. I, however, urge everyone globally; especially leaders in Africa to contribute to the formulation of policies that will enable our ecosystem thrive for the next generation. We can work in our different fields, across borders and diverse cultures with the mindset of connecting humanity to better environmental conditions to promote planetary health and wellbeing.

Eze Victor Obinna

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