AIFESD demands health study to ascertain cause of deaths in Ogoniland

The Executive Director of African Indigenous Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development (AIFESD ), Mr Legborsi Pyagbara has urged the federal government to as a matter of urgent address the issue of health study in Ogoniland as recommended by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report of 2011.

Pyagbara said the reason for the call is because of the high rate of mysterious deaths that occurs in communities across the ethnic nationality in Rivers State.

Pyagbara made the call yesterday in Port Harcourt, during stakeholders dialogue on Ogoni cleanup with the theme “Ogoni UNEP Report: Youths Mobilising for Justice and Social Change”.

Recalled that UNEP assessment on extent of environmental contamination and threats to human health in Ogoniland revealed that communities where drinking water is contaminated with high levels of hydrocarbons, public health is seriously threatened.

The report also stated that whoever consumed water from contaminated sources should be requested to undertake a comprehensive medical examination by physicians knowledgeable about the possible adverse health effects of the hydrocarbons detected. 

By way of recommendation, UNEP requested that a focussed medical study should be initiated to track the health of the Ogoni community over their lifetimes to ensure any possible health impacts are identified early enough and acted upon

Based on this recommendation and the deaths record in the area, the AIFES boss said government through its Ministry of Environment must commence health study, so as to save the situation and ensure that Ogoni people are not wiped out completely because of undisclosed diseases.

He said: “Another strong recommendation in the UNEP report is the issue of health study across Ogoniland. That health study has not been initiated and for me, 8th Anniversary of Ogoni Day, 12th Anniversary of the UNEP report, is one big issue we need to take care of.

“The biggest function in Ogoni now is burial programme. We also ask ourselves, what is responsible for the high rate of death. I know of Ogoni community, a place like Bodo that there is burial ceremonies every weekend.

“Part of my big regret now is that health study has not been done. When we were in Geneva doing negotiation and this issue of negotiation came in, I asked the UNEP team how long will it take us to do health study. They said it will be a 10 years study because for you to recognise a disease strength and disease emergence, it needs some time to study and recognise the disease.

“I think that it is high time we had to demand for health study to be done. Is not just about doing health awareness; HYPREP has done such before, doing hospital intervention in communities, supply health services, etc. We need to know what is causing death in Ogoni, the assessment was not stupid to recommend health study. 

“They said they studied about 5000 medical records from the different hospitals in Ogoni. So, that informed the reason why there need for health study for us to know more about the health situation in Ogoni; for us to know if it is actually oil extraction that lead to some health emergence, the skin diseases we are seeing, the infertility cases that are rising souch in the area. We are demanding for health study to commence immediately, at least let us know what is responsible for the high level of mortality we are seeing in Ogoniland”, Pyagbara added.

Speaking on the re-pollution of the area by activities of illegal oil refining, the former MOSOP president advised youths in the area not to “destroy our environment in the name of hunger and hardship “.

He noted that the damage done by oil bunkering on the environment is worst than what the oil multinationals have done in the process of their activities, extracting crude oil in the area.

Credit: Authority Newspaper

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