Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Essence of the World Toilet Day

World Toilet Day is observed annually on November 19. It was created in 2001 by World Toilet Organisation in response to the struggle of billions of people face every day without access to proper, clean sanitation. Also to bring to the forefront the health, emotional and psychological consequences the poor endure as result of inadequate sanitation.
Of the world 7 billion people, 6 billion have mobile phones. However, only 4.5 billion have access to toilets or latrines-meaning the 2.5 billion people, mostly in rural areas, do not have access to toilet and proper sanitation. In addition, 1.1 billion people still defecate in the open.
The countries where open defecation is most widely practiced are same countries with the highest number of under-five child deaths, high level of under-nutrition & poverty, and large wealth disparity.
World Toilet day is created to pose exactly those kinds of questions and to raise global awareness of the daily struggle for proper sanitation that a staggering 2.5 billion people face. The day brings together different group, such as media, the private sector, development organization, and civil society in a global movement to advocate for safe toilets.
Since its inception in 2001, World Toilet Day has become an important platform to demand action from government and to reach out to wider audiences by showing that toilet can be fun and attractive as well as vital to life.
It is in response to this, that United Nation general assembly on July 24, 2013 officially approves, endorsed and designates the day to spotlight the plight of 2.5 billion people who do not have basic toilet. The assembly resolution approved by consensus urges all its 193 members to promote behavioural changes and adopt policies to increase access to sanitation and end open defecation, a key cause of diarrhea.
Toilet in Nigeria leaves much to be desired. A simple visit to our houses, offices, markets, Relaxation Park, hotels will tells you the state of our toilets. People are also defecating and urinating indiscriminately along the road, in public places etc. without any shame, which rains washes it away to our water supply source, and the attendant consequences. The state of public toilets also are so poor that if you use some, you must take a good shower to free yourself from the sent and smell that stains both your body and dress. Many houses had no toilet at all, but only use the nearby space or bush, even the dead are not spared, as some do go to cemeteries to defecate and urinate.
According to the National Policy on Excreta and Sewage Management, 2005, it has been observed that, in urban centres, some households with water carriage system, pipe the raw sewage into the public drains. Also, according to 1999 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey [NDHS], 12% of the urban population has no toilet facilities of any kind whilst, 55% use pit latrines and 31% use flush toilets. Rural areas are even less served. The NDHS 1999, also indicated that about one third of rural households have no toilets facilities at all and as a result make use of bushes and rivers. In the periurban centres, children as well as adults defecate indiscriminately at dumpsite, gutter or any available open space in the late hours of the night and early hours of the morning.
These figures are especially sobering as that a large number of people urinate in open spaces, with serious health implications in densely populated urban and periurban settlements.
Based on the above, the policy prescribe that every house shall have suitable and adequate numbers of sanitary latrines/toilets, it shall be built of hygienic easy to clean materials, accessible and designed to minimize the proliferation/harbourage of diseases, and shall be located to avoid potential contamination of waters sources and surface soil.
The minimum accepted numbers of persons per toilet as per the policy are: 1-10 persons, 1 toilet; 11-20 persons, 2 toilets; 21-40 persons, 3 toilets; 50-75 persons, 4 toilets; 75-100 persons, 5 toilets, but over 100 persons, one toilet to every additional 30 persons.
Since human faeces contain a wider range of disease-causing organisms including viruses, bacteria, and eggs of human parasite, and that many of these organisms are transmissible to people through houseflies, contaminated hands, food, water, eating and cooking utensils, and by direct contact with contaminated object, and that Infections such as cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, poliomyelitis, etc., that account for significant morbidity and mortality in developing countries such as ours, which are spread in this way, the importance of toilet cannot be overemphasized. In a situation where the toilet is not even unclean/unhygienic, its absence pose more dangers, as people defecate openly, which will give room for contamination of water source via rainstorm, offensive odour, etc.
The disease associated with excreta are, faeco-oral like cholera, dysentery, poliomyelitis, etc., soil transmitted helminthes like roundworm, whipworm, hookworm, etc., beef and pork tapeworm due to the eating of untreated excreta by cow or pig, water based helminthes like schistosomiasis due to frequent contact with faecal contaminated water and excreta related insect vectors like flies, cockroach and culex mosquitoe.
It can be seen that cholera and poliomyelitis are most common infections that keeps recurring in Nigeria, which their principal source of transmission is ‘faeco-oral’, and directly relates to excreta. And too much amount of money is being spent on cholera whenever it become epidemic with little or no impact, but only to control, and wait for the next time to will recur again. Instead of investing in the environment, in making sure each house has a hygienic and proper toilet, clean and healthy environment, no we prepare to rely on drugs only. The same with polio, unless we gives emphasis on environmental health and sanitation, the day to eradicate it will remain a mirage.
As we celebrate the day today, we should make sure henceforth to clean our toilet accordingly, covering its opening in case of pit larine, emptying it as at when due, and observing basic hand washing techniques after defecation, after cleaning babies bottoms, before food preparation, before eating; and before feeding children using detergents or ash.
The option before Nigeria in making sure all houses have toilets is Community Led Total Sanitation [CLTS, an innovative methodology for
mobilizing communities with a view to eradicating Open Defecation (OD)], Ecological Sanitation Toilets, reviewing of Public health laws to stipulate a stricter penalty for any house that has no provision of adequate and functional toilet, training and retraining of environmental/public health practitioners to engage communities on the importance of toilet and hand washing health wise, for the control of many diseases associated with excreta.
More awareness is needed for the people to appreciate the relevance of the day, and inculcate the importance of toilet in their life.
Sani Garba Mohammed, public health department[environmental health programme], Federal University of Technology, Owerri

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Where are our sanitary inspectors?

SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 
Because of obvious reasons informed by its mode of operation, many people in Abuja do not recognize the Abuja Environmental Protection Board as the environmental watchdog of the Federal Capital Territory; rather, the impression many residents and visitors have is that this environmental outfit is just a disguised “local police” for the FCT. These dark-shirt-and-peak cap boys would rather arrest a lady who, by her manner of dressing – or gait, resembles a commercial sex worker, than pick up a waste bin that has blocked a gutter in a residential area. They are ready to chase hawkers, itinerant artisans, and other hapless petty traders into any bush in town, and overzealously apprehend them, than chase an eco-hazardous vehicle or a carbon emitting truck. An Abuja resident once described them as “policemen without boots”, because some of them wear bathroom slippers to engage the so-called “Abuja vagabonds”.
This was why I was taken aback when I read in the media, during the recent Lassa fever epidemic, that the AEPB had introduced sanitary measures to ensure that residents of the FCT would not fall victim of the virus that was transmitted by hairless tailed bush rats that abound in the country. It was sad to read that 40 lives including some medical personnel had been lost to the disease with over 400 others infected this year alone. Although Abuja was not among the 12 states of Edo, Taraba, Borno, Gombe, Yobe, Plateau, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Ondo, Rivers, Anambra and Lagos, which harboured the acute viral disease which was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa Town in Borno State, the nation’s capital city needed to be quickly hemmed in by preventive measures against the outbreak.
The AEPB’s sanitary measures include the re-introduction of sanitary inspectors to carry out a citywide house-to-house inspection of premises to ensure that residents applied environmental health practices. According to the Assistant Director, Environmental Health and Safety of the AEPB, Kate Ogbonna, residents are advised to keep their homes and environments clean including their kitchen, pantries, cooking utensils and others. The campaign also kicks against rearing of animals, birds and fish within residential premises. It also stops the parking of abandoned cars and other household property, and enforces the clearing of blocked drainage and stagnant water within and around residential apartment in the territory. It was learnt that the sanitary inspectors commenced work immediately on February 25 and were moving from house to house to inspect and also serve defaulters with notice to comply with safety and cleanliness rules and regulations, failure of which they would be charged to court.
For Abuja to wake up from a deep environmental slumber and start doing what needed to be done, means that, perhaps, the Lassa fever outbreak has finally sounded the clarion call that this is the time for Nigeria to wake up to the reality that the direct consequence of poor environmental sanitation is high morbidity and mortality rates due to sanitation-related diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid. The wise adage says, “A stitch in time saves nine” or, more colloquially, prevention is better than cure; but we live in a country where the government and the people’s body language says “cure is better than prevention”.
I wonder what made us forget where we are coming from as a country. Some of the best aspects of governance like sanitary inspection which used to be standard practice before, have been discarded, and now it is manifest that we are paying dearly for it. Can we count how many times we hear of individuals and families dropping dead after having a particular meal? Could it be that some of these incidents were just cases of contamination due to widespread poor environmental health situation in the country today? Those that lived in the colonial and post-colonial periods in Nigeria knew them as “Wole-Wole” among the Yoruba, “Nwa ole-ala” among the Igbo, and “Duba-Geri” in the Hausa-speaking parts of the country. They were the dreaded, respected and, yes, obeyed government workers in Nigeria who took preventive health to an enviable height.
It is interesting that the AEPB used the old nomenclature, instead of calling them Environmental Health Officers as is the modern practice. I therefore pray that the aura of service shall descend on these workers today as it was in the past, so that they will achieve a lot. Nigeria needs them today more than ever before. This is because as the adverse effects of climate change is visiting developing countries, the adaptation strategies must include environmental health. Sadly, in Nigeria today, the position of environmental health officers in Primary Health Care has been hijacked by medical health practitioners (most especially medical doctors) and it is not supposed to be so. The truth is that doctors have professional orientation that centres wholly on curative health, and not preventive health – the guiding practice of environmental health.
Environmental health officers, also known as public health inspectors, the world over have standard duties which include protection of water sources, waste water treatment, waste management, vector and pest control, prevention and control of land, air and water pollution, food hygiene and safety. Others are air quality management, occupational noise management, occupational health and safety, accommodation establishment, port health duties, accident prevention, environmental health aspect of public recreation and tourism, etc. In more developed countries, sanitary inspectors are actually the people who review the floor plans of new buildings and give approval for builders. Could it be that the absence of these officers is a fundamental contributor to the ubiquitous cases of building collapse in Nigeria in recent times?
Our government needs to sit up. Health delivery is not only about cure and care. There are a lot of diseases that are environmentally preventable. And there are a lot of environmental indices that set the template for the inevitable breeding of vectors, and then subsequent outbreak of epidemics, just as witnessed in the case of Lassa fever. Now is the time to be wholistic in planning for the safety of the Nigerian masses, rather than wait for emergencies. Let us take a look at the Roll Back Malaria programme for instance. There are four intervention strategies: Early diagnosis and prompt treatment; Use of insecticides treated bed nets and mosquito control; provision of malaria treatment for pregnant women to reduce impact of malaria infection on their health, and on the health and development of their children; and prevention and responses to epidemics. But the situation is that the last strategy is downplayed in favour of the first three; ironically, prevention and response to epidemic is the one Nigeria needs more to stem the tide of malaria permanently and this is where environmental health management is required.
What is more, the government needs to make it mandatory for all institutions to make provision for the office of environmental health officers. At the moment, many Federal Medical Centres, federal hospitals, state hospitals and other health institutions and ministries do not have such essential office. I believe that when the government fills this yawning gap, the nation’s institutions of higher learning will create courses and degrees for environmental health management where these officers will be trained, just as it is the practice in advanced nations. In Nigeria, there is a paucity of platforms for certification and capacity building for public health inspectors at the moment. Should the situation remain unchanged, even the brand new Abuja sanitary officers after a while will go back to chasing commercial sex workers and hawkers, and this too will become a chapter in our notorious national storybook aptly titled: “One step forward, two steps backwards”.

Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 World Environmental Health Day Celebration: The Lagos Challenges

We join the rest of the world in celebrating the World Environmental Health Day (WEHD) with the theme ‘Emerging Environmental Health Risks and Challenges for Tomorrow. The World Environmental Health Day (WEHD) was declared by the International Federation of Environmental Health (IFEH) in 2010 to inculcate and promote the culture of environmental consciousness and friendliness amongst every age group, children and adolescents, and to inform and educate the public on the significance of a clean and healthy environment in the spirit of promoting the adoption of practices that are environmentally compatible.

Besides the advice of the International Federation of Environmental Health (IFEH) encouraging the celebration of World Environmental Health Day (WEHD) worldwide, the increased number of avoidable undesirable incidents attributable to poor sanitation makes this celebration compelling and essential.
According to World Health Organization, Environmental Health addresses all environmental (physical, chemical and biological) factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviors. It encompasses the assessment and control of those environmental factors that can potentially affect health and its targeted towards preventing diseases and creation of health-supportive environments.

Environmental Health Risks and Challenges are wide spread environmental health hazards resulting from inaction or/and action of man, potentially degenerating environmental media with attendant long and short term public health effects. Such effects can be localized, regional or global with serious socio-economic drawbacks.

Therefore, emerging environmental health risks and challenges are those that are coming into existence because of changes in the environment, thus increase their prevalence across various eco-systems.
While most countries especially those in the developing world like Nigeria are still struggling to address the existing environmental health problems, new challenges and risks are emerging which require complex solutions. The causes of these can be traced to:
1.       Advances in technology.
2.       Population growth.
3.       Increase in industrialization.
4.       Climate change.

Lagos State being the most populous in Nigeria with over 18 million people and the commercial nerve of the federation with huge industrial investments is expected to experience the following challenges:
Ø  Climate change.
Ø  Pollution of water resources, air and soil.
Ø  Poor sanitation and personal hygiene.
Ø  Epileptic waste management.
Ø  Proliferation of second hand (used) electronic products.
Ø  Chemical misuse.
Ø  Food poisoning.
Ø  Fouled indoor air/ indoor smoke.
Ø  Sick building syndrome.
Ø  Malaria.
Ø  Flooding.
Ø  Building collapse.

The Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) has however done exceedingly well to ensure environmental sustainability.
Rapid development of Lagos can be traced to the welcoming of ideas from stakeholders by those at the helms of affairs. We hereby suggest the following solutions to the aforementioned challenges:

The state government has done commendably well on construction of roads, drainages and canals. Many existing drainages are mostly accumulated with silt, with reduced water carrying capacity. This is attributable to absence of man-hole on concrete drive-in into some estates and communities. This further disallows willing and well meaning citizens access to carry out cleanliness and desilting in drainages desirably. Drainage maintenance is jointly the responsibility of the government and the public. It is therefore advised that reasonably sized man-hole with removable slabs be provided on concrete drive-in into estates and communities for easy removal of silt and rubbish, and ensuring optimum performance of drainages.

Collapse of houses/building both existing and those under construction are gradually becoming an epidemicity in Lagos State. The first storey building in our country is still in Badagry sound and strong. Records of avoidable building collapse, killing people and damaging properties within the state are due to deviation from standard practices. To nib this menace in the bud, there should be a re-introduction of professional synergy amongst the Environmental Health Officers, Civil  Engineers and the Town Planners to ensure strict adherence to various buildings laws/regulations and there should be constant monitoring of manufacturers of building materials, e.g block moulding industries should comply with the standard sand –cement ratio 1:2 -1:3

The recent move by the state government to ensure safe delivery of adequate potable water is well thought and timely. In attaining this objective, water conduit pipes should be laid away from drainages and other areas of potential health risks. This will go a long way in reducing the incidence rate of water borne diseases such as cholera, poliomyelitis, dysentery, typhoid etc
Undeveloped lands around the state had encouraged insanitary habits such as indiscriminate dumping, burning of refuse and open defecation, consequently reduces the aesthetics of the state. All land owners should therefore be advised to do proper environmental maintenance of their properties.

Sewage dislodgers were recently disallowed from disposing  sewage into water bodies across the state ,this we are sure is not unconnected to increased cholera incidence rate and its obvious contradiction to the principles of water sanitation. It will be in order if we infer that there is disequilibrium in the ecosystem of the affected water bodies ,altering biological activities ,owning to increased organic matter ,biochemical oxygen demand(BOD),chemical oxygen demand(COD),turbidity, microorganisms, and reduced dissolved oxygen(DO).While we advise that status –quo be maintained in sewage disposal due to its localized nature ,we implore the state government to provide central sewage treatment plant for safer disposal of sewage.    
Mosquito had remained a perennial enemy of the people, we should wage a very serious war against mosquitoes in Lagos state, we should fall back to the basis, rolling back malaria had not been effective and in fact it’s not encompassing, mosquito is also the biological vector for other diseases like filariasis, dengue fever, yellow fever etc  whose management require huge capital from our limited resources hence there is recourse that the state government should provide all necessities in altering all the potential breeding sites of mosquitoes.………
………………………………………………………………………………………                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       PROLIFERATION OF USED ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC PRODUCTS
Lagos has the highest ports ,through which copious electrical and electronic items find their way in, these imported scraps soon end up in various dumpsites, where they are picked and crudely recycled by scavengers, a recent research on this  by Professor Osibanjo of the department of chemistry, Olabisi Onabanjo University, explained that the environmental media(Air, land, water, food) of lagos are laden with heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, arsenic, with potential toxicity on public health .We advise that the state government should not relent in its campaign in regulating the influx of these electronic  junks and mitigating its attendant public health effects .

The recent resettlement by the lagos state government of some people back to their respective states is a welcoming idea from environmental health perspective. People without a place of abode pose serious environmental health risks viz avis open defecation, indiscriminate dumping and burning of refuse, illegal construction of slums along water courses, of which these activities have been found to be the causers of emerging environmental health risks and challenges

It is no longer news that Environmental health challenges are escalating and every government is preparing for tomorrow by protecting its territory from deterioration through formulation of relevant environmental policies. Having best policies in place without provision for practical implementation is tantamount to having none. Government at all levels are evidently in dearth of Environmental Health Officers, hence, we advise the massive recruitment of qualified Environmental Health Officers, who are the change agents needed in providing and maintaining the desired health-supportive environment through various actions in detecting public health nuisances via:
·         House-to-house inspection
·         Surveillance of diseases
·         Inspection of water treatment plant
·         Effective waste management
·         Food hygiene and safety
·         Approval of building in line with building laws/regulation specifications
·         Integrated pest management and many more.

Thanks for listening.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 World Environmental Health Day: Emerging Environmental Health Risks and the Challenges for Tomorrow: The case with Nigeria

By Sani Garba Mohammed

Being text of Environmental Health Forum of Nigeria, at the celebration of World Environmental Health Day [WEHD], on 26th September, 2013, at School of Hygiene, Kano

Environmental  health  addresses  all  the  physical,  chemical,  and  biological  factors  external to  a 
person, AND all the related factors impacting behaviours;  encompasses the assessment and control of 
those environmental factors that can  potentially  affect  health,  and  is  targeted  towards  preventing  disease  and  creating health supportive environments.
IT IS recognizes  that the continuing  threats  to   human health  posed  by  pollution,  climate  change,  urbanisation,  globalisation  and  poverty,  and  the  urgent  need  to adopt a preventive approach so as to maintain and improve the quality of the natural environment, air, water, food, housing and communities in order to reduce the impact of disease and the public health  IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE, AND THAT the  services provided  by  environmental  health  professionals  heightens  the  visibility,  worth  and significance of environmental health to the general public, governments and the public and private sectors,are essential

elements in building healthy populations and  these core  services include  food  safety,  sanitation,  the protection  of  drinking and recreation    water  quality,  the  protection  of indoor  and  outdoor  air
quality,  communicable  disease  control, tobacco control, vector management, emergency management and disaster preparedness, [IFEH 2011, EMPHASIS, MINE]. Based on these and many more, today, the world is celebrating  ‘World Environmental health Day’. It is celebrated in Kano by Environmental Health Forum of Nigeria, in Lagos by Concerned Environmental Health Graduate, and many other organizations in many states.

The celebration was started in 2011, courtesy of International Federation of Environmental Health [IFEH] resolution in Indonesia, which is being observed every September 26. The theme of this year’s celebration is ‘Emerging Environmental Health Risks and the Challenges for Tomorrow’.

For Nigeria, the emerging environmental health risks are many, but the most priority ones are emerging and re-emerging diseases, food control and hygiene, Water sanitation and hygiene, built environment, environmental health emergencies, oil spillage, electronic waste,  increased urbanization,  Health, Safety & Environment, [HSE], climate change open defaecation, and Waste management..

Emerging and Re-emerging diseases

The emerging and re-emerging diseases include cholera, meninigitis, poliomyelitis, tuberculosis, measles, lassa fever, malaria and HIV/AIDS. For malaria alone, Nigeria is spending over N132 billion annually in the cost of treatment, prevention, loss of man-hour, etc., and that it accounts for 25% of global malaria cases. The other diseases are also killing Nigerian due to emphasis on curative rather than prevention, which accounts for not only their re-emerging, but becoming endemic in the country.

On food control,

Many junk and fast food are increasing daily, which many chemical preservatives, colourants and flavour are added, and the rate of their consumption in is multiplying with its attendant effects on the health of the consumers in causation of cancer, diabetes and others, without regulating our lifestyle, and the ignorance of the public on what to eat, when, how and why, is further increasing the prevalence of many non-communicable disease in the country.
Many food joints and restaurants are not registered with the appropriate environmental health authority, the food handlers are not certified health wise to determine whether or not are fit to handle and process food, many are not accessible, and did not meet the minimum health requirement to operate.

 Water sanitation and hygiene

The main sources of water supply in rural areas are boreholes and rivers. In most cases the rivers are contaminated with physical, chemical or biological contaminants due to our actions or inactions, and if drink without proper treatment, the effect on public health is great. Diseases like diarrhea, typhoid fever, dysentery, etc. are associated with such water. Where the water is provided by treatment plants in some cities, in many times, the water is not fully treated to be called ‘potable’, or if it so, along the way of transmitting it via various pipes networks, it becomes contaminated, can also cause diseases.

Built Environment

Our built environment, majority of our rural areas and some cities are built not in accordance with building regulations which gives room for poor hygiene, overcrowding, over building, collapse, dampness, cracking and others, which adversely affects the occupants health physically, psychologically, physiologically and socially. Built environment should be adequately ventilated, not overbuilt and in tune with health regulations.

Environmental health emergencies

These are occurring daily, from road accidents, flooding; power failures, broken pipes, and blocked roads which can all disrupt water, waste and food-handling services for hours or days. More severe damage to civil engineering structures, from bridges to water mains, can cause disruptions lasting days or weeks. In such a case, contingency plans for temporary repairs and, when necessary, alternative water supplies and sanitation arrangements are required. Here, Environmental health officer comes in handy from evacuation stage, to settlement, treatment, cleanup and the provision of supplies stage.

Oil Spillage

Oil spillage in the Niger Delta is of great concern to the nation as its effects are affecting Nigerian environment by killing birds, contaminating water, damages beaches, kills marine mammals and fish, destroy wildlife habitat and breeding grounds and damage to soil fertility. These and many more give the room for the creation of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency [NOSDRA].

Electronic Waste

These are discarded electrical or electronic devices and are being shipped to Nigeria in large quantities, majority of which are irreparable junk from phones, refrigerators, computers, television sets, DVD, etc. Their accumulation in an environment pose a great danger to the public ranging from release of airborne dioxins, heavy metals and hydrocarbons and their eventual access to bodies of water, air, which is adversely affecting health. Effects like fetal loss, prematurity, low birthweight, and congenital malformations; abnormal thyroid function and thyroid development; neurobehavioural disturbances; and genotoxicity are associated with electronic waste. Though there is no proper record of the effect of electronic waste in Nigeria, nevertheless, studies elsewhere shows that it increases the level of airborne dioxin, carcinogens, and heavy metals in various environmental media.


Increase urbanization has overstretch the limit our public utilities services can afford to maintain, unemployment, overcrowding, poor plan and layout, lack of sanitation, contaminated source of water supply, air pollution and many more, with their attendant environmental consequences.

On Health, Safety and Environment, HSE,  we look at the risks of diseases, injuries and other working conditions of workers in their various place of work [be it office, industry, factory, etc.], the community where such workers exists such that the activities of the industries, factories or the organization does not pose a danger to the communities. Even though Employer Compensation Act is there to protect workers, nevertheless, many workers are suffering from diseases and injuries related to their works, with little or no changes to their physical, mental and social well being.

Climate Change

Climate change is by far the greatest emerging environmental health risks affecting Nigeria as we are experiencing flooding, drought, extreme heat and rise in temperature, increase insect vectors due to poor sanitation and desert encroachment.

Open Defaecation

Open defaecation is common across the nation, as many houses had no provision of toilets at all, they are at the mercy of open space and bushes closes to them, and the public health problems associated to open defaecation include contamination of water sources via storm runoff, causation of diseases like cholera, poliomyelitis, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, ascariasis, etc. Though a new concept of Community led Total Sanitation [CLTS]-an innovative methodology for mobilizing communities with a view to eradicating open defaecation-is being championed by UNICEF, still much need to be done.

Waste management

By waste management I mean the process of generating, storing, sorting, transporting and disposal of waste, be it solid, liquid, gas in Nigeria is chaotic and being done in many government agencies and private operators by quacks and non-professional. Anywhere you go in Nigeria, the menace of waste is everywhere, which is further making the aesthetic view of cities and towns unattractive, and do drive away foreign investors. Improper waste generation and disposal causes diseases like malaria, cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, contaminates sources of water supplies, attract vector and other insects, and many other avoidable situations. By waste management, it include healthcare waste or medical waste being generated in clinics, hospital, research centres, which its improper management will leads to risks to healthcare practitioners, patients, visitors, waste handlers, and even the community where such health facilities exists, and is generating healthcare waste.

The challenges is for the appropriate authorities from federal, state and local government to give emphasis on environmental health services which centres on protecting and safeguarding the public health through various actions in detecting public health nuisances via premises inspection, surveillance of diseases, registering and certifying food vendors, inspection of treatment of water sources, approval of building in line with health regulations, medical waste management,  waste management, pollution control and many more, which will go in a long way to protect our environment.

The non-involvement of environmental health practitioners in key decision affecting health and environment  by policy makers, is further making Nigeria going nowhere, as emphasis is placed more on curative treatment, rather than preventive measures, which is not only taking away our scarce resources, but making our environment unattractive to investors, and a breeding places for many avoidable diseases. The earlier we give emphasis on environmental health management solution to these and others problem, and engaging those that matters, the better for us. For ‘Your environment, is your Health’.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Flooding, a Consequence of Anthropogenic Neglect

Institute of Erosion Studies Federal University of
Technology, Owerri.
Flooding can be defined as an overflow of huge amount of water onto a normally dry land. It occurs when the overflowing water submerges land and causes deluge. In this case the underlying soil may be supersaturated if the overlying soil is permeable or relatively dry if impermeable. It shall be noted when rain falls onto surface, the water partially loss is either through surface runoff and /or evapotranspiration and / or infiltration. Where the surface is impermeable the entire precipitation flows as runoff but the surface is fully vegetated on a gentle slope the water entirely dissipates through evapotranspiration and infiltration.
Weather events
Flooding is normally caused by natural weather events such as: Heavy rainfall and thunderstorms over a short period Prolonged, extensive rainfall High tide combined with stormy conditions.
It is also predicted that climate change_ will increase the risk of flooding in all parts of the world. The following factors can also cause or contribute to flooding.
Poor Maintenance
-     Faulty sewer networks
-     Poor or insufficient drainage networks
-     Inadequate maintenance of watercourses, i.e., non desilting of drainage channels
Development / planning issues
Inappropriate development in flood plains Building on land in a way that prevents rainfall from draining away naturally this includes roads, built environment and car parks that are impermeable to water, increasing the risk of flooding from rainwater runoff. Flood defence schemes that are defective or badly designed
I] Naturally Induced Scenario
Tidal Flooding: This results from a combination of low pressure weather systems and peak high tides resulting to overtopping or breaching of sea and river defences. Both sea and river defences may be overtopped or breached by a combination of low pressure weather systems and peak high tides. Storms with high wind speeds cause tall and powerful waves and low pressure fronts cause sea levels to rise above normal levels. High tide levels vary through the lunar and solar cycle and when superimposed upon other tidal variations exceptionally high tides result.
The onset of flooding from the sea and tidal rivers is often sudden and the extreme forces driving it present a significant danger to life. The east coast storm surge of 1 953 claimed 307 people's lives in the UK and 1,835 in Holland. A similar storm surge tide in September 2007 came within a few centimeters of breaching a number of the UK'S coastal defences.
It is often possible to forecast, with reasonable accuracy, this type of flooding due to the predictability of the tide and trackability of low pressure systems. The duration of this type of flooding is also limited by the cycle of the tides where drainage is available.
Fluvial Flooding: Flooding occurs in the floodplains of rivers when the capacity of water courses is exceeded as a result of rainfall or snow and ice melts within catchment areas further upstream. Blockages of water courses and flood channels or tide locking may also lead to ponding and rising water levels. Rivers defences may then be overtopped due to increase water levels, or breached by large objects of debris carried at high water velocities. Flooding from rivers has in recent years been experienced in the Niger Delta region and Niger/Benue River flood plains of Nigeria. The onset may be quite slow in some catchments with steadily rising levels. However, flash can occur in steep catchments and is far more immediate. Flooding from rivers particularly in recognized floodplains can usually be predicted with good accuracy.
However flash floods from sudden downpours such continue to challenge the capability of detection and forecasting systems. Water over about 250mm in depth may carry debris particularly in urban locations and can also be cold. Even travelling at low speeds this can make it extremely hazardous to people caught in it.
Ground Water: Low lying areas sitting over aquifers may periodically flood as ground water levels rise. This type of flooding is often seasonal and therefore can be forecasted with good accuracy. It is often slow in its onset.
II] Anthropogenic Induced Scenario
Pluvial Flooding: Surface water flooding is caused by rainwater run-off from urban and land with low absorbency. Increased intensity of development in urban areas has given rise to land with a large proportion of non-permeable surfaces, a problem often exacerbated by overloaded and out-dated drainage infrastructure. These circumstances, combined with intense rainfall, can give rise to localised flooding.
This sort of flooding often occurs outside of recognised floodplains and because it is caused by quite localised weather conditions it is very difficult to forecast. Its onset can also be very rapid, and the level of flooding very severe. In each rainy season flooding experienced in most urban cities is not directly caused by rivers but by surface water. Large volumes of rainfall early in the season usually saturate the ground and intense rainfall later causes both urban and rural areas to flood.
Flooding from sewers: Flooding from sewers can occur where there are combined storm and foul sewers and their capacity is exceeded due to large amounts of surface water run-off in a short time. Poor cleaning and maintenance can lead to blockages that can also cause local flooding. This type of flooding is hard to predict, has significant sanitary consequences for those affected, and can occur very rapidly.
Flooding from Man Made Infrastructure; Canals, reservoirs and other man-made structures can fail causing flooding to areas downstream. Industrial activities, water mains and pumping stations can also give rise to flooding due to failure.
4 The Effects of Flooding
The effects of flooding from the sources outlined above are felt by various ‘receptors’. These include, people, buildings, infrastructure, agriculture, open recreational space and the natural world. In extreme cases flooding may cause a loss of life. However, the social and emotional costs from flooding can also be significant and are often widespread and indiscriminate in flooded areas. These costs include displacement from homes, loss of personal valuables, and the ongoing fear and insecurity caused by the experience. Potable water supplies may be lost or contaminated in a flood and this can have immediate health effects upon people and animals.
The economy can also be severely affected by flooding. Businesses may lose stock, patronage, data and productivity, and disruption to utilities and transport infrastructure can have knock-on effects to a wider area. Tourism, farming and livestock can equally be affected.
The built environment may be damaged or destroyed as a result of flooding with high repair costs and long period required for reinstatement. The public realm is often badly affected through
damage and the deposit of potentially large quantities of debris. Land contamination may also be transported and during flooding.
Vital infrastructure may also be damage or disrupted. Electricity and gas supplies can be interrupted to individual properties but also to wider communities if sub stations and transformers themselves and flooded. Road links, railways, canals etc. may be blocked causing disruption to the wider transport network, and accessibility severely disrupted for local inhabitants, especially amongst those considered most vulnerable.
Over 20,000 lives per year perish in flood and 75 million people adversely affected worldwide, according to a study by Smith in 1 996 [3]. The effects of flooding and managing the flood risk in UK costs around #2.2 billion GBP each year (2).
5 Factors which Determine the Effects of Flooding
-     The level of predictability- this affects the timing, accuracy and communication of warnings given before a flood.
-     The rate on onset of the flood - how quickly the water arrives and speed at which it rises will govern the opportunity for people to prepare and respond effectively for a flood.
-     The speed and depth of the water- this dictates the level of exposure of people and property to a flood. It is difficult to stand or wade through even relatively shallow water that is moving. Flood water often carries debris, including trees, and water over 1 m in depth can carry objects the size of cars. Fast flowing water can apply devastating force to property and other receptors.
-     The duration of the flood- this is another important factor in determining the extent of its impact, particularly on individuals and affected communities.

5 Anthropogenic Neglect
Human neglect is often responsible for urban flood. Therefore, to minimize the flood, reduce its impact and safeguard the environment Government must think, Space developers must think, Academia must think and Commoners must think.
That is, think while:
i.      Developing a road network.
a.  Carry out an Environmental impact assessment for large projects.
b.  Provide suitable and adequate drainage system on both sides of the road. Terminate the road drains safely.
ii.     Developing a space for housing accommodation.
a.  Provide good drainage system.
b.  Allow green beds within the premises to aid in absorbing surface runoff.
iii.   Erecting infrastructures.
a.  Avoid building on or across drainage channels.
b.  Avoid dumping construction waste on drainage channels.
iv.   Disposing of wastes.
a.  Do not dump wastes in drainage channels.
v.    Installing electricity substations.
a.  Avoid low lying areas.
Human neglects can also aggravate problems of flooding by:
·        Inaccurate prediction or forecast of impending chaotic weather condition and tidal surge.
·        Unavailability of enabling instrumentation for weather forecast and tidal observation. Loss of concentration on the job.

If we have to SAVE or sustain the environment from the devastating effect of flood, Government, the business community and academia must THINK and then
·        Encourage researchers to adapt or adopt or improve on the existing technologies in flood control [4].
·        Modify regulatory laws on development of open spaces Create awareness in the educational curriculum.
·        Enforce regulation especially in the design, construction and maintenance of water regulatory systems.
It is only after then we can relax, EAT and enjoy the human environment.
1.          Law and your environment, 201 3. The plain UK guide to environmental law.Copyright 2008 201 1. UK Environmental law Association, London.
2.          RIBA,2013. The Royal Institute of British Architects.
3.          Etuonovbe, A. K.,2011. The devastating effect of flooding in Nigeria. AnGene Surveys and consultants Technical Report. 1 5p. Ekpan.

4.          C. O. Owuama, 201 2. Conceptual design of a Trenchless drain in a flat terrain. Journal of Environmental Science and Engineering A. Vol. 1, No. 12. David Publishing, CA, USA, Pp. 1301-1307.