Friday, April 29, 2011

Dearth of Environmental Health Officers

By SANI GARBA MUHAMMAD, March 8, 2011

The dearth of environmental health officers [then known as sanitary inspectors] in Nigeria is a serious concern to every discerning mind that need to see our nation out of bondage of environmentally based diseases that account for 70 per cent occurrences annually.
Many can vividly remember the roles played by environmental health officers in the fight against diseases as smallpox, yaws and drastic reduction of malaria and other mosquitoes borne diseases during colonial masters. After independence, the nation neglected environmental health and the result is what obtains in our environment today, and even the number of its practitioners in the country is no-where to match the ever increasing number of population of Nigeria.
Though the problems that affect the practitioners are not limited to structural & political, attitudinal & psychological, environmental & technological, nevertheless, low educational carrier [ND and HND only] and their non-recognition as professional [until 2002, by Act 11], did a great disservice to the practitioners.
Nigeria had pioneered the establishment of B.Sc. [Environmental Health] in Africa since 1975, at the then University of Ife [now Obafemi Awolowo University]. The programme was the only one in Africa until early 90s, when unexpectedly the programme was scrapped which created a gap that has not been filled to date by any Nigerian university.
With the creation of Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria [EHORECON] in 2002 and its inauguration on March 15, 2004, the council has been doing all it can to ensure that Nigerian universities float a degree programme in environmental Health as a strategy to develop the skills of members of the profession and to encourage them to go for higher education.
This and many more efforts yield a great result, for right now, the council, in collaboration with Federal University of technology Owerri [FUTO, centre of excellence], had started a B. Tech. in the programme after spending about two years discussing about how to float the programme. The latter, had shown great enthusiasm and dedication by giving the council all the necessary support in making this programme realizable.
The effort of the council and its members is commendable, as there is no word that can be used to appreciate their action, precisely the indefatigable and workaholic Registrar, Augustine Ebisike, the HOD Education & Training, Yakubu Mohd Baba whom had been on the road from Abuja to Owerri on almost weekly basis, all in an effort to see the programme see the light of the day.
Also the effort of FUTO VC, Prof. CEO Onwuliri, must also be mentioned, who without his full support and co-operation, the council could not succeed at all. His lieutenants that are worth mentioning include the Dean, School of Health Technology [SOHT], Dr O.C Abanobi, Prof. P.O Emeharole, Prof. Amadi A Nkwa, the new HOD of the programme [whom I crown father of environmental health officers due to his super interest in the takeoff of the programme], the Associate Dean, Rev Sr Dr E.T Oparacha, and others, that space cannot contain their names, whose contribution is unquantifiable in the taking off of the programme.
This writer is happy to be part of the first set pioneer students to be admitted in the programme, more so, my joy knew no bound, as I wrote many articles about this problem, which happily now it is over.
We hope by this effort of FUTO, other universities would follow suit by starting the course so that the number of its practitioners could reach the WHO standard of 1 EHO to 8000 people soon.

Muhammad, is of environmental health technology department,
FUT, Owerri.