The earth’s climate is changing and partly as a result of human activities. This has its resultant effect on almost every aspect of life; health, agriculture, environment, education etc.
But despite the acknowledgements of reasons for the heightened climate change and the need for effective interventions, public discourse on climate change remains very low in Nigeria. Where it abounds it is structured among the scientific community and development experts.
Knowledge of climate change issues is significantly low among journalists and opinion leaders who ought to educate the general public and demand action and accountability from decision makers.
This has led to a very low level of attention and action by the public and decision makers. However, a change in people’s behaviors and attitudes on climate change can significantly reduce and prevent its threats, especially those arising from human activities.
Hence, the need for a conscious and deliberate effort to trigger and sustain media action and civic commitment on creating an environmental discourse within the public sphere on climate change issues till those in authority and the people begin to take decisions and responsibilities that will be evident in their knowledge, attitude and practice.
Journalists as conveyors of messages must be engaged by sensitizing and building their capacity to effectively communicate climate change as an issue requiring urgent action; as any information shared could either get the people involved positively or just see climate change as a looming disaster; feeling incapacitated to take action to mitigate such.
To achieve this, Africa Media Development Foundation is engaging journalists on innovative communication strategies on climate change. The project seeks to raise public awareness on climate change in Nigeria by engaging the media towards sensitizing communities to be involved in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts; changing mindsets and attitudes against dangerous human activities that heighten its impact and ultimately influencing decision makers to take effective national measures.
To this end, a number of Journalists in Kaduna Northwest Nigeria were in March trained on Climate change and environmental reporting. As part of the activities was a face to face training with journalists and a field trip to Angwan Shanu community within Kaduna Metropolis.
The Ungwan Shanu Community is located few kilometers from the Kaduna House of Assembly. The community is plagued with a refuse dumpsite which residents said has been there for about 60 years.
Mallam Yakubu Dangarinmu, a community leader who took the team to the dumpsite decried the agony the community experiences. He said with every first rain of the rainy season the stench oozing from the dump site becomes unbearable.
It has become a threat to the health of residents in the community with many exposed to eye and respiratory diseases. The situation always worsens during the day when scavengers set fire on the dump in search of metals.
Unfortunately women and children are the most vulnerable because when the stench and smoke become heightened, the men often move out of the community leaving their wives and children to bear it.
A youth activist in the community noted that on several occasions he had used his facebook page to report the menace of the refuse dump yet the response has not brought a lasting solution.
The dumpsite also poses a great threat to the community’s market and a Primary Health Care facility though a fence demarcates the facility and the site. A health worker at the facility confirmed cases of diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, malaria and chicken pox reported at the facility which is no doubt linked to the presence of the refuse dump site in the community.
Staff and clients at the PHC facility are not left out as the stench is strongly perceived within the premises.
Community members unanimously called on the Kaduna state government to increase efforts at clearing the dumpsite for the health and environmental benefit of the residents and passersby.
The refuse dump site is just one out of many posing health hazards in many communities in Kaduna Sate.
The Climate Change and Environmental Reporting project which will last six months is expected to expose climate and environmental issues in communities, and sensitize the public on environmental health with the aim of attracting intervention from government and private organizations for the benefit of vulnerable communities.