WELCOME ADDRESS BY SANITARIAN ZAKARIYAU ALIYU; NATIONAL PRESIDENT ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH OFFICERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (EHOAN) AT THE OCCATION OF FEDERATION OF WEST AFRICA ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL MEETING, CITY HOTEL IYANA IPAJA AGEGE LAGOS. 28th and 29th DECEMBER 2011.
It is my honour and privilege to welcome you all to the maiden conference of federation of Environmental Health professionals in West Africa. The antecedence of our great profession has been very profound and nodal in the history of mankind. Indeed there has not been any well acknowledged civilization in the history of mankind that did not have one form or another of a system of human health and environmental control for its sustainable development. Religions and cultures also have extolled the virtues of environmental health and hygiene. Human sophistication and development has come to formalize these virtues into a profession which we belong.
In West Africa the spirit of neighbourliness, cooperation and experience sharing among us are the driving forces that have informed the need for this federation meeting. As is common saying ‘’Diseases know not political borders’’ especially at this time of globalization, the profession of Environmental Health cannot but come together to uphold those very principles and practices that have bound us together in the practice of Environmental Health profession.
We in West Africa sub-region are not only a geographical convenience but a people with common cultural and historical identity that continue to bind us in our quest for socio-economic advancement. The history of this profession will not be complete without recalling the great role it played in the complete eradication of small pox in the 70s. Since then there have been emerging challenges to both the health and the living environment of our citizens. These challenges have also informed some of the transformations experienced in the training, nomenclature and practice of the profession especially here in Nigeria. It is a matter of concern to us that despite the progress the world has experienced some of our member states are still the same as at during the colonial era.
Some of the emerging challenges to the practice of Environmental Health now include:
1. The build-up of hazardous wastes in our homes and industries.
2. Electronic waste [E-waste] dumps largely as a result of imported used electronic gadgets.
3. Climate change and the ecological shift in diseases zones.
4. Environmental pollution (water, air and soil).
As a matter of emphasis, issues pertaining to spread of diseases or environmental pollution do not recognize political boundaries. No matter how good a member state is performing if a neighbouring country remains adamant about its roles and responsibilities to the environment and health, the efforts of the neighbour may become fruitless or counterproductive. That is the essence of regional co-operation. That also was the justification for institutions like West Africa Health Examinations Board (WAHEB) in the training of Public Health Superintendents now Environmental Health Officers that harmonizes training curricula and Examination for Anglophone West Africa. Nothing stops the revitalization and strengthening of this protocol and even a further expansion to include all francophone countries.
Concerning a harmonized practice regimen of the profession, pertinent questions include how we streamline our code of professional practice, who and how do we enlist and license members in the practice to ensure the necessary discipline and control. On the whole how do we project the image of the profession in our member states for the benefit of our citizens? This meeting should be able to address these questions. I also understand that umbrella professional Association of West Africa Environmental Health officers once existed but however, now moribund. Once again, this conference will serve as the foundation for a revitalized ‘’CONFERENCE OF WEST AFRICA ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH PRACTITIONERS ASSOCIATION’’ (COWAEHPA). We are happy to announce the development of a draft constitution for presentation and vetting by this meeting.
My fellow colleagues in Environmental Health, there are no short-cuts to success as there are also no successes without sacrifices. At this time of merry-making and holidays, we are assembled here for a very noble cause. This I believe is in the spirit of sacrifice. In the same vein our commitment to this cause and financial sacrifices are most desirable at this critical period of our reformation.
To our most cherished institutions [WAHEB and EHORECON] we cannot thank you enough for all the support to making this conference a success. It is our hope that after this maiden meeting each member country should be able to properly organize and strengthen itself financially and administratively to attend or host subsequent federation meetings of our great Association.
Finally, it is our hope that these two days of our meeting will lay the foundation of a greater and progressive profession that is enviable among the committee of professions in WEST AFRICA.
Thank you and God bless.