Harmattan may have originated from the Arabic word ‘HARAM’, which literally means; the evil thing (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language; Fourth Edition).
The Harmattan is a dry and dusty wind blowing northeast and west of the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between November and March (winter) each year. It is considered a Natural Hazard. On its passage over the desert it picks up fine dust particles (between 0.5 and 10 micrometers). The dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days it is comparable to a heavy fog, this effect yearly cause airlines millions due to cancelling and diverting of flights.
The skin, the eyes and the respiratory tract are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of this weather; the respiratory system is heavily and badly affected because of its direct communication with the atmosphere. The respiratory tract has got a defensive mechanism that stops harmful particles in the air from getting to the lungs. This defense may however be overwhelmed by the concentration of the pollutants in the atmosphere the resultant effect is excessive sneezing, cough and catarrh.
People with pre-existing chronic chest infection, Asthma, and other chronic (long-term) disease that makes it hard to breathe should pay special attention to their health, taking all possible and practicable measures to reduce exposure to the dusty atmosphere in addition to having their inhaler with them all the time. The dry, cold and dusty wind associated with Harmattan also triggers sickle cell crises in affected individuals therefore sicklier should be vigilant and keep warm as much as possible to prevent crises.
During this period extra caution must be taken to prevent fire accidents. Because of the dusty atmosphere, there is need to imbibe healthy food preservation culture, food and fruit hawkers should maintain proper hygiene this is important to prevent food borne diseases. All Fruits and vegetables should be properly washed before eating and drinking water should be properly covered.
The Harmattan is a natural hazard that we have to cope with, however, man’s alteration of his natural environment as helped fuel these natural hazards. To minimize the adverse health effect of this natural hazard Government must see to Environmental sanitation of companies, enact and enforce laws to regulate environmental pollution from industrial bye products.
There is no weather that is fully accepted by all humans no matter how favorable it is. Our challenge is to live and adapt to them!
Eko oni baje o!