Environmental Health, Sanitation, More Than Vaccines, Can Prevent, Control Diseases – Minister

Minister of State for the Environment, Dr. Iziak Kunle Salako has said that importantly, sound environmental health and sanitation practices are key to healthy living as vaccines are not enough to prevent and control some of the emerging and re-emerging diseases.

Speaking on Wednesday at the National One Health Steering Committee (NOHSC) meeting in Abuja, the Minister said it was a well established public health fact that poor environmental sanitation was the leading driver of over 100 waterborne, infectious and vector borne diseases.

He said such diseases included cholera, typhoid fever, infectious hepatitis, poliomyelitis, various forms of diarrhoea diseases, malaria and neglected topical diseases, among others, with most of them causing loss of productivity, disabilities and untimely death.

Here’s a full text of the Minister’s speech:

“The National One Health multisectoral and multidisciplinary approach to health security is a welcome development as it is in line with global best practices.

“The One Health approach has recently become a vital tool in addressing global health challenges, particularly in zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food safety, and environmental health.

“By linking humans, animals and their shared environment, One Health approach can help to address the full spectrum of disease control from prevention to detection, preparedness, response and management; and contribute to global health security.

“According to WHO report, 29% of Nigeria’s national disease burden is linked to risk factors from the environment, 47 million Nigerians defecate in the open, 850,000 Nigerians are at risk of mercury poisoning emanating from ASGM activities.

“In 12 states, air pollution poses high environmental risk to human health in Nigeria especially in cities like Port Harcourt, Lagos, Onitsha and Kano.

“In the last World Health Assembly, air pollution and climate change were identified as the number 1 of the 10 threats to global health in 2019.

“I am therefore particularly happy that One Health approach has made us recognize the fact that issues of human and animal health cannot be adequately addressed without taking into consideration, the environmental health aspect.

“To ensure effective disease prevention and control through a National One Health approach, the Federal Ministry of Environment has initiated the following environmental health and sanitation programs and activities such as Development of National Environmental Sanitation policy; establishment of Integrated National Environmental health Surveillance System (INEHSS).

“Others are Establishment of Sanitation Desks in 36 states ministry of Environment including FCT; Capacity building/training of Sanitation Desk Officers in the states; National Environmental Health and Sanitation intervention/Response to some diseases of grave public health importance like Lassa Fever and Cholera.

“Others again are Health Care Waste Management strategies, Water, Sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs; Inter-Ministerial Committee on National Environmental Sanitation Programme; Antimicrobial Resistance(AMR) programmes including development of AMR policy for environment sector, Chemicals events managements; to mention but a few.

“The Federal Ministry of Environment has continued to engage Sanitation Desks in all the 36 states and FCT encouraging them to take proactive environmental health and sanitation measures in order to ensure improved public health outcomes at sub-national levels.

“These Sanitation Desk Officers are coordinating sanitation and related public health activities within their states, while liaising with their respective LGAs Environment Department and reporting back to the Ministry.

“In as much as I believe that the One Health approach has improved our health System and responses to health Security which is an integral part of our national security, it will not be out of place to begin a process of collaborative assessment of the successes achieved so far, review the current situation, identify the gaps and propel future activities aimed at mitigating threats from zoonosis, vector borne diseases, climate change, antimicrobial resistance, Chemical events, poor sanitation & hygiene.

“Climate Change in particular has become a major threat to our health security which I must say appears not receiving enough attention in the National One Health responses.

“As we continue to work together in this National One Health Steering Committee (NOHSC), I want to appreciate each and every one you for your commitment towards the Nigeria one health project.

“Let me assure you that we are going to overcome all the challenges through continuous coordination and collaboration.

“Let me also assure you that in line with the 8 priority agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu designed to renew the hope of Nigerians and improve the social economic conditions of the people, the Federal Ministry of Environment is fully committed to work collaboratively with sister ministries and agencies to deliver as a team.”

He commended the Federal Ministry of Health & Social Welfare and NCDC for their leadership role and thanked Development Partners for their technical and financial support.

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