The World Health Organisation (WHO) says environmental health is a very important component of nation-building and needs to receive more attention in Nigeria.
WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Peter Clement, said this at the National Environment Health and Sanitation Pre-Summit Dialogue in Abuja on Tuesday.
Represented by Edwin Isotu, the National consultant, Public Health and Environment, WHO, Mr Clement noted that a high percentage of Nigeria’s disease burden is linked to factors in the environment.
“The issue of climate change and environmental pollution, which is a major challenge in cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt and Onitsha, shows that this is the time we need to be more serious in addressing environmental issues, including issues of waste management,” he said.
He applauded the effort of the Nigerian ministry of environment and EHORECON at putting together the dialogue to discuss issues surrounding environmental health.
However, Mr Clement said the implementation of policies is one of the major problems in Nigeria.
“The policies are already in place but not being implemented. Getting success in any part of the world is about knowing what works and how to get what works done and that is what we need to do as a country.
“For us to have an efficient policy implementation, we need to connect the dots. There must be a connection of the dots between the policymakers, the policy implementer, the academia, the Civil Society Organisations and the industry experts.”
He also noted that the private sector has an important role to play in the environmental space.
“We are talking about a circular economy of which the government cannot do everything, so we should be able to build system and structures that will allow us to solve the problem and also generate revenue for the private sector.
“This will help us live a healthy life,” he said.
Speaking earlier at the event, the Registrar of Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON), Dominic Abonyi, said Nigeria has become resilient in its efforts to contain environmental degradation, abuse and pollution.
Mr Abonyi said the resilience can be seen in the readiness of the country to contain international diseases.
He said the country has a success story in that area but more works need to be done.
“Though the success story is still at a percentage, we have not reached where we want to be, given the nature of the vastness of Nigeria, given the nature of the ecological variation and then the population of the country.
“The federal government is not relenting in issues relating to environmental protection and environmental health generally,” he said.
The pre-summit dialogue was held to interrogate issues associated with environmental health practice reporting amongst stakeholders to avoid duplication of efforts and waste of resources.
In his remarks, the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Mahmood, said Nigeria has been facing environmental and sanitation challenges, which include waste management problems.
He also said poor access to improved water and sanitation remains a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five.
He appealed to all partners to continue to support with technical and financial resources to improve environmental health and sanitation services across the country.