This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Nigeria's Oil Can Be Bad For Health

Oil has lifted Nigeria's economy and a better economy should be good for the health of the population. However, a recent report suggests that being too close to the oil is not such a good thing. 
...[G]rowing evidence suggests that the very same oil is also deepening a health divide between the country’s oil heartland and the rest of the nation. Between 2006 and 2016, life expectancy in Nigeria increased for men by seven years, to 63.7, and eight years for women, to 66.4. Yet in the Niger Delta region, life expectancy has fallen to between 40 and 43 years, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Experts worry this sharpening gulf could further complicate efforts to bring peace to the conflict-torn Niger Delta. 
The problem is oil spills. If oil could be drilled and piped without ever spilling, then things might be OK. But, as the world has seen over and over again, oil spills happen, and they have serious negative consequences.
But the impact on human health is only now becoming clear. Research led by economist Roland Hodler from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland published in September 2017 has shown that these oil spills are baby killers. Using spatial data from the Nigerian Oil Spill Monitor and the Demographic and Health Surveys, and relying on the comparison of siblings conceived before and after nearby oil spills, the researchers found that children born close to oil spills were twice as likely to die early. Of the 16,000 infants they sampled among those who died within the first month of their life in 2012, 70 percent — more than 11,000 — would have survived at least a year in the absence of oil spills, their findings suggest. And those who survive die much earlier than peers in other parts of the country. The UNEP attributes this disparity to lifetime exposure to contaminated air, water sources, soil and sediment resulting from oil spills.
I looked at infant mortality rates and under-five mortality rates calculated from the DHS data, and did not find this pattern at the regional level. Indeed, the southern regions of Nigeria have lower mortality levels than the northern regions, but the readily-available DHS data do not have the local spatial scale discussed in this report. 

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