From: Bamidele Fashube, Abuja
THE Federal Ministry of Environment on Thursday advised the Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON) and other sanitation health officers in the 36 states including the 774 Local Government Areas (LGA) to improve on surveillance of sanitation facilities in various establishments and offices.
This move the ministry stated would help check the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
Dr Mohammad Mahmood, the Environment Minister made the call in Abuja during the event to commemorate the 2020 National Environmental Sanitation Day, titled “Sanitation and Hygiene: Fundamental to COVID 19 Prevention.”
The Minister was able to establish the link between good sanitation such as the use of handwashing facilities with soaps and water to check the disease spread.
He added that most offices and establishments lack good sanitation facilities stressing that the environmental health officers have significant roles to play.
“As we are all aware, Coronavirus disease is sanitation hygiene related. Frequent and proper handwashing is one of the most important measures that can be used to prevent the spread of COVID 19 Virus,” says Mahmood.
“Unfortunately, it has been observed that many establishments do not have a full complement of functional handwashing facilities, either soap is missing or there is no water for those who have them.
“I, therefore, call on my Environmental Health Officers and their Counterparts in the states and LGAs to enhance their routine environmental Health Surveillance in these facilities/offices and ensure compliance.”
The Minister explained that the act of environmental sanitation involves activities aimed at improving or maintaining the standard of basic environmental conditions affecting the well-being of people. Some of these he listed as clean and safe water supply; clean and safe ambient air; efficient and safe animal, human and industrial waste disposal; protection of food from biological and chemical contaminants; and adequate housing in clean and safe surroundings.
He emphasised how adequate implementation of the above activities would result in improvement of the nation’s environmental sanitation and make a greater impact on the national health indicators, thus resulting in better health status for the people.
In addition, Mahmood advised on the safe and hygienic use of personal protective equipment (Nose Mask).
He also called for disinfection or decontamination of surfaces, the practice of personal and environmental hygiene when coughing and sneezing including practising social distancing of two metres.
Rolling out how the federal government was able to develop the National Environmental Sanitation Policy and its guidelines, the minister said it took a multi-stakeholder approach to address environmental issues such as market and abattoir sanitation, excreta and sewage disposal, sanitary inspection of facilities among others.
He noted that the policy has been reviewed to address the current reality of the global pandemic.
“As you are all aware, human activities on the environment have tended to degrade and make the environment untidy and unfit for human habitation because of its unsanitary nature. Consequently, the Federal Government in 2005 introduced the National Environmental Sanitation Day to institutionalize sound environmental sanitation practices amongst Nigerians through sustained awareness creation and reward for best practices in environmental sanitation with the aim of improving the living condition of the people through an improved environment,” he said.
Some of the achievements rolled out by the ministry to prevent spread of COVID 19 in the country in line with the federal government’s strategy includes:
- Decontamination/disinfection of Motor- parks, markets and about Two Hundred (200) plus office premises of Ministries, Department & Agencies (MDAs) in the Federal Capital Territory;
- Environmental Health and Sanitation intervention on COVID – 19 to Kano, Kaduna, Edo, Anambra and Lagos States where technical support was rendered as well as Chlorine-based chemicals and personnel protective equipment (PPEs) were donated to the above-named State Governments;
- Decontamination of some Federal Government Establishments in the aforementioned States;
- Conducted webinar training for the Sanitation Desk Officers in the 36 Ministries of Environment and FCT on Environmental Health and Sanitation Response Activities to the containment of COVID – 19 in Nigeria;
- Capacity building training for Environmental Health Officers in the FCT on decontamination/disinfection and safe burial practices;
- Environmental Health Surveillance by the Environmental Health Officers in the Ministry as part of the measures to contain COVID – 19 in the country;
- The Department liaises with the Sanitation Desk Officers in the States for an update on their various COVID – 19 Environmental Health and Sanitation response activities which among others include: Environmental Health Surveillance within their States, decontamination exercise, sensitization and awareness creation, enforcement of relevant Public Health laws and government directives;
- Liases with NCDC on the issues of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) especially in the areas of Sanitation and Hygiene
- Liasing with the Federal ministry of Education on the guidelines for school reopening
Mahmood revealed that in promoting access to hygienic sanitary facilities in the country the ministry in complementing the efforts of the Local Government Authorities who have the constitutional responsibility in line with the 4th schedule of the 1999 constitution, has embarked on the following:
▪ Initiation and implementation of a programme tagged “Clean and Green” aiming to end open defecation in Nigeria by 2025.
▪ Provision of toilets and other sanitary facilities to communities under its community-based waste management programme.
▪ Commenced sanitary inspection of all federal government establishments and public places i.e. markets, hotels, abattoirs, motor parks etc.
▪ Developed criteria for the assessment and selection of the cleanest state in Nigeria for an annual award during subsequent NESD.
▪ Established sanitation desk in the 36 states of the federation and FCT for environmental health and sanitation surveillance system.
▪ Youth and women empowerment programmes in environmental sanitation, waste management, environmental remediation etc.