In Gombe, Harmattan is no respecter of careless residents
Gombe State residents express their fear for the cold, dry harmattan weather,
Aresident of Gombe, Chijioke Anosike, would give or do anything possible to exchange the dry Harmattan winds blowing across the state for a spell of warm weather.
In a country where most people eagerly look forward to the harmattan season every year, Anosike seems like the odd man in a large crowd. But he, in an interview with our correspondent, explained that his dislike for the dry and cool weather, which sometimes can get very cold at night, was due to the fact that it affects his health.
“I was once diagnosed with pneumonia. Since then I have always been scared of cold. I prefer the hot weather to harmattan. During harmattan, I take my bath with hot water. I don’t touch anything that is cold. This time around, the weather is very cold,” he said.
According to Wikipedia, the harmattan season ushers in desert-like weather conditions, lowers humidity, prevents rain from forming in the clouds and sometimes creates clouds of dust or sand which can result in violent dust storms. This drop in humidity can result in serious nose bleeding for some people. The harsh weather can also cause catarrh, cough, pains or headache for others. In fact, as individuals vary so does the effects of the harmattan on them.
During the harmattan season it is also common to see people complaining of dry lips and skin. The weather also increases the risk of respiratory diseases, just as it heightens the fear of fire outbreaks.
Another resident of Gombe, Mallam Abubakar Sadiq, expressed his discomfort with the weather. He complained of the intense cold, especially at night, and how the moistureless weather has left his skin and lips dry.
To keep out the cold, Sadiq has formed the habit of wearing more than one shirt and avoids taking his bath regularly. “I have never been diagnosed with any medical condition, but every morning I am always afraid of taking a shower. I find it difficult to wear clothes without doubling it. I wear three tops most of the time to stay warm. Despite the fact that the sun shines in daytime, the weather is still very cold,” he said.
In spite of Anosike and Sadiq’s complaints, the Commissioner for Health in Gombe, Dr Ahmed Gana, said the harmattan was not a bad season.
To cope with the dry weather, he added, residents only need to be cautious during the season.
Gana maintained that children and adults need to cover up their bodies properly. He said, “There are cold-friendly clothes and there are clothes that ordinarily transmit heat. Wear sufficiently thick clothes to moderate the cold temperature. Avoid dust and, if necessary, wear a protective mask over the nose area.
“Keep warm, especially at night and early in the morning. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to boost immunity. Visit the nearest health centre if necessary.”
The commissioner also noted that opportunistic infections are common during the season. “The commonest is the flu that occurs during this season. Upper respiratory tract infections are generally frequent during the cold hamattan season and if not treated can degenerate into pneumonia,” he added.
Also, a consultant pulmonologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr Uju Ozoh, said that coughing and sneezing, mostly resulting from viral upper-respiratory tract infections, are common during the harmattan season. “Asthma and allergies also flare up and patients with the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may have exacerbations. This is worse for very young children and the elderly, as well as people with previous respiratory conditions,” she said.
Advising government at all levels to pave all roads in order to reduce dust, Ozoh added, “See a doctor if you have worsening symptoms of a respiratory condition or new onset symptoms, such as breathlessness or cough. If upper respiratory tract symptoms persist beyond a few days, visit the doctor.”
Preventing fire outbreaks this season
The Chief Fire Superintendent and Deputy Operations Officer at the Gombe State Fire Service, Mr Salihu Doho, has said the harmattan season does not cause fire outbreaks on its own; they are caused by careless people.
Doho noted that property valued at over N100m was lost to fire incidents in 2018, while the Service saved about 287 lives.
He said the agency had since doubled its efforts to minimise the loss of lives and property this year.
“Cases of fire outbreak have drastically reduced due to our efforts to sensitise the people. If you compare what we have experienced in the past to the present, you will see that cases of fire outbreak have reduced. Residents, must as a matter of fact, be very careful when handling fire in their homes. This will further reduce fire related incidences in the state,” he added.
Describing the circumstances that often lead to fire incidents during the harmattan season, Doho said, “Carelessness is the number one cause of fire outbreaks. For instance, if you have a room heater and you fail to switch it off, when electricity is restored it may result in a power surge, which could in turn trigger off a fire.
“Also some parents leave their children to play with match sticks and you find people who use candles arbitrarily without placing them on dedicated stands. People who pour fuel into their power generators, without switching them off first, also cause fires to break out.”
Explaining that fire incidents are divided into various classes, he said that for Class A, ordinary water is best tool used in fighting it. “Extinguishing medium of fighting Class A fire is water. Among fire extinguishers, there are those that contain ordinary water. We have Classes A,B,C,D, for A it involves free burning agents like the paper. It is really flammable, but with water, it goes off easily, unlike palm oil that rises when you pour water on it. For Class B, you need CO2 Gas Extinguisher or dry chemical power,” he said.
Doho claimed the state fire service had been sufficiently equipped and energised by Governor Inuwa Yahaya to ensure that Gombe is free of fire outbreaks during the harmattan season.
•Truck belonging to Gombe State Fire Service