Lekol Bakpoh, a health worker at Biara, Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, has lived in constant apprehension about the state of his health and those of his family members for several years.
Things, however, took a turn for the worse in March when Bright, his 10-year-old son, woke up abruptly in the middle of the night with a frightening asthma attack.
That night, Bright struggled to fill his lungs with air as he started coughing. His beleaguered windpipe made sharp whistling sounds as he inhaled. The kid held on to his tiny chest in futile attempt to douse the pain that tore through it every time he tried to breathe, his father narrated.
Mr. Bakpoh said he administered some drugs that stabilised his son’s breathing and reduced the coughing after about an hour of torture that seemed like eternity. But his apprehension soared after that dreadful experience.
That was four years before the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, in a report designated his homeland one of the most polluted inhabited areas in the world
Sitting on a coffee table in his living room in April 2017, he told PREMIUM TIMES that he feared he might have to deal with a worse medical emergency sooner than later. He said he recently observed the water they fetched from a nearby borehole tastes bitter.
“Water is supposed to be tasteless, right?” he asked.
Before this reporter could respond, he told one of his daughters to fetch a cup of water from a container in another room and urged me to confirm for myself.