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‘I thought I’d seen poverty in Africa, but Scotland has shocked me’: Cost of living ‘death sentence’ fears for asthma sufferers

Martina Chukwuma-Ezike, chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, is worried about the cost of living crisis.
Martina Chukwuma-Ezike, chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, is worried about the cost of living crisis.

The cost of living crisis could be a “death sentence” for north-east asthma sufferers, a leading Aberdeen charity is warning.

The likes of fuel poverty, poor diets and stress are expected to send case rates soaring, with lives at risk in the process.

The Aberdeen-headquartered Asthma and Allergy Foundation – Scotland’s only dedicated charity for this condition – says it must be tackled with “urgent intervention”.

Poverty’s link with asthma

Every 20 minutes, a young Scot is taken to accident and emergency for an asthma attack.

And in 2020, almost one death was recorded every three days.

The AAF says children living below the breadline are three times more likely to end up in hospital – and three times more likely to die – because of their illness.

There are concerns the cost of living crisis could make matters worse for children with asthma.
There are concerns the cost of living crisis could make matters worse for children with asthma.

Chief executive Martina Chukwuma-Ezike said: “Asthma attacks don’t happen without reason. They are triggered.

“Poor diet, cold and badly ventilated housing, stress and anxiety all contribute.

“We are facing a public health timebomb because of the rates of people moving into poverty with every week that passes.”

‘Brutal reality’ of heating or eating

In recent weeks, the cost of fuel has soared dramatically – with energy prices expected to raise even further in the autumn.

Martina, who is also Lord Rector of Aberdeen University, has been visiting schools across the region to see how the crisis is affecting our next generation.

“The pandemic was particularly hard on asthma sufferers who had to shield during Covid,” she added.

Martina was installed as the new rector of Aberdeen University in March 2022. Picture by Paul Glendell
Martina was installed as the new rector of Aberdeen University in March 2022. Picture by Paul Glendell

“As a result, many became unemployed, and these are the people we want to reach and support now.

“For a child living in a cold house, with mould on the walls and in a stressful environment, where its parents have to make a decision whether to feed them or heat the house, is the brutal reality.

“I thought I had seen poverty in Africa, but what I have seen in Scotland has shocked me.”

Extra impact on local kids

Additionally, the “shocking” rise in food prices is having a noticeable effect on staples like rice, pasta and vegetables.

“When parents don’t have the money to cook healthy meals then tend to opt for cheaper, unhealthier options,” Martina added.

“This leads to higher rates of obesity which, of course, causes asthma sufferers even greater problems.”

The AAF, which also has bases in Edinburgh and Glasgow, wants asthma sufferers to be given special priority in terms of access to social and financial support.

It is also calling for a national education campaign and more research into the influences on, and effects of, asthma in Scotland.

Martina added: “Nobody should die from an asthma attack in this day and age but, sadly, three people in the UK die from this every day.

“We need an urgent conversation around the link between asthma and poverty in light of the current cost-of-living crisis.”

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