Millions of Nigerians have been pushed into poverty as a result of the country’s deteriorating socioeconomic conditions; as a result, they are not only financially strained, but their health is also jeopardized, since many are now suffering from major medical diseases such as hypertension.
This is the story of Iruke Faith, a forty-five-year-old mother of two, who shared a shrill experience of her battle with hypertension in early February 2023.
Faith, a small trader and resident of Bwari Area Council, stated that the previous three years have been difficult, juggling family responsibilities and maintaining her struggling business in the face of growing living costs. She claims her husband’s local government job pays little and cannot even support their family of four for a week.
“One fateful Saturday, I had just finished packing up drinks in my big cooler for sale and by the time I could stand up, I just collapsed. I was taken to the clinic. The doctor on duty said my blood pressure was very high and that I am stressing too much. I have been having serious headaches and dizziness but I thought its just tiredness.
“Things have been difficult, most times, the cost of business is more than profit and I have to work harder to make some more money because my first son will be going to the university this year. Now, I am on medication and have to limit some things and food I eat,” she said.
Faith bemoaned that the intermittent power supply, which has gotten worse over time, and the continually growing cost of items are two obstacles that have kept her firm from expanding over the years. She also expressed dissatisfaction with the administration, claiming that “they have made things worse for us, especially those of us on this side of life with no help at the top.”
Another distressed Nigerian, Seun Idris, a businessman from Bwari, revealed that he was diagnosed with hypertension for the first time in December 2022.
“I went to the clinic to run a test, it’s for a job I am applying for. I was so surprised when the nurse told me my blood pressure is high and even gave me medication,” he said.
Like Faith, Idris said cost of living is heaping pressure on him daily. “I can’t see the impact of government’s so-called social policies because things have only gotten really bad. I have searched for job for more than five years; I was frustrated and got into business, but even that has many challenges,” he said.
According to recent studies, hypertension is on the rise across the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 76.2 million Nigerians have hypertension, often known as high blood pressure.
Hypertension is a serious medical condition that raises the chance of developing heart, brain, kidney, and other problems. According to WHO, it is a leading cause of death and mortality in Nigeria, which appears to be among the worst affected.
According to the 2021 journal of clinical hypertension, approximately one-third of Nigerians have high blood pressure, a figure that has increased by 540 percent since 1995.
Unfortunately, experts say the burden has worsened and will continue to worsen unless something is done. According to medical physicians, nurses, and other health professionals who spoke with BusinessDay, they are observing an increase in hypertension among patients who visit their facilities on a daily basis.
Finbas Odey, manager and founder of Brighter Life Hospital in Bwari, said the number of patients visiting his hospital and being diagnosed with hypertension has skyrocketed. He added that the medical ailment is currently becoming more prevalent among the younger population, particularly those aged 28 to 33.
According to the doctor, among other risk factors, the current economic problems, along with the stress caused by naira scarcity and the election saga, are fueling instances. According to him, stress from the everyday fight to make ends meet accounts for 40% of new cases recorded in his hospital.
“It is alarming among the youths, because the stress increases the risks. Job opportunities have reduce drastically, it is so alarming”, he said.
Also, Cynthia Preston, who runs a private health and fitness centre in Abuja disclosed that seven out of ten of her clients suffer high blood pressure. “Its is really scary, people are anxious and developing this condition everyday. No doubt, the financial hardship and poverty on this country is a culprit “, she said.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report, at least 133 million Nigerians, or 63 percent of the population, are multidimensionally poor.
However, BusinessDay recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to lift another 100 million people out of poverty by 2030, implying that an average of 10 million people must be lifted out of poverty each year beginning in 2020.
Furthermore, unemployment, which puts so much pressure and anxiety on young people, has gotten worse. According to the most recent KPMG unemployment numbers, the jobless rate will soar to 40.6 percent in 2023. KPMG is a global professional services firm that offers audit, tax, and consultancy services.
According to KPMG’s ‘Global Economic Outlook’ study, unemployment in Nigeria would remain a major issue due to little investment in the economy, poor industrialisation, and sluggish economic activity. Furthermore, the economy’s inability to absorb the over five million young school leavers who enter the labor market each year will exacerbate the problem.
Some of the known risk factors for the medical illness include an unhealthy diet heavy in salt and low in fruits and vegetables, inactivity, cigarette and alcohol use, and obesity. Poverty has been acknowledged as a key risk factor in Nigeria by the WHO and other experts.
According to Kingsley Akinroye, executive director of the Nigeria Health Foundation, hypertension incidences in the country have increased over the years. According to NHF data, hypertension affects between 30 to 40% of Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people.
Abayomi Sarumi, an expert at the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, which is involved in public health advocacy, also mentioned how poverty affects the burden of hypertension. Poor food choices, he claims, raise hazards, but poverty effects a person’s diet.
“Poor Nigerians would often settle for what is affordable which often than not, increases their risk of hypertension”, he said. Sarumi wants government to double efforts to tackle the disease, and eliminate trans fats from Nigerian foods.
According to Onyechi Adaobi, a health specialist, high blood pressure is a silent killer that most people are unaware of, and cases are on the rise. She also urges all key parties to increase disease awareness and enhance access to treatment.
According to the 2021 journal of clinical hypertension, 29 percent of sufferers are aware of their disease, but just 12 percent are receiving therapy. Furthermore, the rising burden widens the inequality gap, contributes to the economic hardships of patients and caregivers, and raises health-care costs.
Adaobi lamented that the disease adds to the strain of seeking care for sufferers, particularly in the lack of health insurance.
According to the National Health Insurance Authority, just about 10% of Nigerians have health insurance, with millions more paying out of pocket.
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