Thursday, September 30, 2010

Re: Second coming of sanitary inspectors

By Ojewale S, A
Thursday, September 02, 2010

The editorial opinion of the Sun Newspaper of Wednesday, august 11, 2010, titled “Second coming of Sanitary Inspectors” was quiet interesting and educative but had traces of insinuations. Definitely, there are no more sanitary inspectors but Environmental Health Officers and searching for the former may be a mirage because the cadre ‘sanitary inspectors’ has metamorphosed to ‘Environmental Health Officers’ (EHO) in a prescribed distinct uniform.

The role of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Environment is collaborative, complementary and symbiotic in policy formulation, implementation and supervision of environmental Health policy, plans and programmes without infringing on or trespassing the constitutions. Modern EHOs have been trained to be persuasive using health education approach rather than being forceful and the use of the public health laws comes as a last resort for the recalcitrant.

With the establishment of Environmental Health Officer Registration Council of Nigeria (EHORECON) by Act 11 of 2002, Environmental Health has become a regulated profession in Nigeria, wherein the practitioners are strictly to practice within the code of ethics of the profession which is a derivative of the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Not everybody in the profession is pious but majority of the EHOs in Nigeria carry out their duties and functions with decorum, sanity and finesse which is a radical departure from what it used to be many decades ago. The Council is always ready to sanction any black-sheep that may be detected among the profession.

Reports of erring officers could be lodged at EHORECON zonal offices in Ningi- Bauchi state, Ibadan, Oyo state, and Owerri, Imo state or directed to the Secretary/Registrar of the Council in Abuja on GSM no 08035978069.
Thus far, EHORECON had registered a little over six thousand EHOs in Nigeria. This number is very meagre to effectively serve Nigeria sprawling population of over one hundred and forty million people. It means one EHO will be serving more than twenty three thousand (23,000) (1:23,000) people. This is a far cry from one EHO to eight thousand people (1:8,000) prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The situation became compounded because there are many states in Nigeria where the total number of EHO is less than five. This is one of the principal causes of poor environmental sanitation in Nigeria today. There are also decay and inadequate sanitary infrastructures and apparent lack of political will in many instances. EHORECON is not pleased with the present situation of sanitation in the areas of waste management, water, food and market sanitation, housing, spread of diseases and the general trends of environmental degradation in Nigeria.

Recently, EHORECON in collaboration with the West Africa Health Examination Board (WAHEB), UNICEF and the Federal Ministry of Environment reviewed the syllabi for the training of environmental personnel in Nigeria. The syllabi have been expanded to meet modern and future environmental challenges. The implementation is being monitored.

All practising EHOs in Nigeria have being undergoing Mandatory Continuing Education Programme (MCEP) for re-orientation. The Council is to establish model public health laboratories, libraries and museums in all the six geo-political zones in Nigeria to compliment the efforts of the local and state governments. The Council has other plans in the pipeline.

The Sanitation of Nigeria will drastically improve if the relevant Federal authorities will make it as a matter of policy to recruit among the numerous unemployed trained EHOs and second same to the state Ministry of Environment and local government to complement the dwindling number of EHOs, something like what the Federal Government did to arrest the dwindling number of mid-wives in Nigeria. This is very important because no matter what the Federal Government does to any of the sectors, the environment remains all encompassing and embracing.

S.A. Ojewale represents the Environmental Health officers Registration Council in south-west geo political zone.

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