The environmental sanitation and personal hygiene practices (using Ebonyi State as a case study) as the measure for the control of diseases.

To understand the above subject matter logically we shall commence the discussion with the definition of environment-types, scope and composition and why it must be protected particularly using the sanitation approach. We shall further look at the roles of the community in this programme and the constraints and limitation facing Environmental Protection and sanitation in Ebonyi State. Finally possible recommendation will be proffered in other to improve environmental sanitation and personal hygiene in the state.

            On creation man was divinely charged to inhabit the earth and domesticate it, thus the earth became man’s environment. This environment which is life sustaining is made up of two vital components namely BIOTIC AND ABIOTIC. The biotic is made up living organisms like animals, fungi, microorganisms and plants. The Abiotic is made of non-living things like chemicals and other physical factors-(Weather: temperature, humidity, rains, snows, soil, water and sunlight.    
The biosphere does not exist “sui-generis” but is interdependent and interrelated with three abiotic domains-Atmosphere (Air, weather,  Rain, snow), LITHOSPHERE (soil, earth crust) and Hydrosphere (water) in providing mankind with the basic necessities of life-food, clothing, shelter and other things that make life meaningful. The sum total of these interacting domains and processes is conceptualized in this discuss as mans total environment the Biosphere or Ecosphere which we shall jealously continue to protect at all possible cost.
            Having noted the importance of the environment in ensuring the continuous sustenance of life it becomes imperative that we must protect it. The need to protect this environment becomes more imperative when we consider the ever increasing resource-acquisition methods due to technological advances being employed in the mining, fishing, farming, logging, agriculture, factories and industries. This threat is further compounded by the rising standards of living, population growth etc.
            These activities of man have created numerous environmental problems many of which have already reached global proportion. Most of these activities create very deleterious impact on the environment (eg Ozone depletion) that threatens mans survival on the planet. Other impacts include:
-           soil erosion and topsoil loss
-           Desertification
-           Deforestation
-           Acid rains
-           Global warning
-           Pollution of several types-air, food, water soil etc.
            One can infere that the quality of man’s environmental is fast depreciating by every passing day and will get worst if nothing is done practically both at the local and global levels. Environmental protection is increasingly becoming global issue considering – ozone depletion, green house effects, global climatic changes and warming etc. Most of these issues have brought together several world leaders from the developed and developing countries to discuss measures, formulate policies that will reduce pollution globally for the interest of humanity and future generation.
            Wikipedia defined environmental protection as “a practice of protecting the natural environment from all forms of abuses by individuals, communities, organizations industries and governments”. The issue of environmental protection from abuses particularly that of pollution and its concomitant consequences on the good health of man and other living organisms has been brought into the front burner for global discussion and possible solutions.
            Against this backdrop several strategies or approaches are being employed for this purpose locally and globally using legislations, enactment of environmental protection laws, Establishment of environmental protection agencies etc. others include the adoption of Environmental sanitation strategy and the personal hygiene practices in order to avert drastically environmental pollution of our Air, water, soil and food contamination and to reduce the possible contact between man and the hazards of wastes. All the above measures are aimed at reducing mortality and morbidity rates and other deleterious impacts on our environment. We shall examine critically the environmental sanitation and personal hygiene practices in ebonyi state as the measure for the control of diseases.
            For a holistic understanding of these measurers let us recall that man’s  sustaining environment the BIOSPHERE consists of an inter-play between the Earth planet and the atmosphere, the lithosphere and hydrosphere to ensure the total survival of man. It is a sociological truism that the pollution of any of these domains by man’s activities invariably will affect all other domains and their inhabitants and properties. On the contrary the “safety” of any of the domains translates to the safety of others. So in environmental protection and sanitation we must bear in mind these domains and their interplay.
            These domains like we had earlier noted face several deleterious impacts due to mans activities in the quest for providing her needs of life and comfort. In that process several thousands of tons of wastes are generated, some of the wastes are in solid, liquid and gaseous forms including other hazardous wastes. The greatest culprits in this pollution exercise is the SOLID and the HAZARDROUS WASTES. These wastes greatly predisposes man to various health hazards including aiding in the transmission of diseases through pollution of the environment-air, water, soil and the contamination of food.
            It’s these harmful impacts that the application of effective environmental Sanitation and personal hygiene practices wants to address. According to Wikipedia environmental Sanitation refers to “the hygienic control of environmental factors that form links in disease transmission-i.e solid waste management, water and wastewater treatment, industrial waste treatment, noise and pollution control”. These hygienic means of promoting health  through prevention of  human contact with the hazards of wastes can be by adopting sophisticated engineering solutions like sewerage and wastewater treatment plants or through simple technologies like use of latrines, septic tanks and even by personal hygiene practices like simple hand washing with soap.
            The application of these two strategies will drastically reduce all forms of pollutions and discourage the growth and transmission of pathogenic organisms while the religious application of personal hygiene practices will reduce human contact with hazardous wastes thereby reducing mortality and morbidity rates in the community. WHO agrees that “inadequate (Poor) Sanitation in our urban towns and rural areas is the major cause of diseases and deaths world-wide and improving sanitation is known to have a significant beneficial impact on health both in the households and across communities.
            In all human societies it is a fact of truth that for any meaningful socio-economic and political development to take place there is a very strong need to ensure the safety and good health of the citizens and this can be achieved through improved environmental sanitation and robust personal hygiene practices by the citizens. This leads us to the million dollar question of the state of these variables in our Ebonyi State today. Do we have enough sanitary facilities and services for environmental Sanitation? And what is the state of personal hygiene practices in Ebonyi State? The answers are obvious because we do not have such facilities and services and where they exist they are grossly inadequate with poor services. Also the level of personal hygiene practices in the state is abysmally low. Why is the situation like this in Ebonyi State.

Governments – (local and state) face several challenges in implementing environmental protection and sanitation mechanisms. These include lack of financial resources, low level of political will on environmental matters. These have serious consequences on the Public Health Services particularly in environmental sanitation as typified by the following;
-           Lack of sanitary equipments for the management of solid, liquid, gaseous and other hazardous wastes.
-           Absence or lack of standard/sanitary refuse collection dumps and the final disposal sites.
-           Primitive acquisition of refuse dumps by the elite.
-           Lack of modern technology for improved sanitation and Environment protection (sewerage and wastewater treatment plants for recycling) in our urban towns.
-           Lack of fund to meet the ever increasing demand from the dynamics of public health programmes.
-           Lack of adequate skilled staff (e.g the Environmental health officers) in all public health enforcement agencies – ministry of Environment, EBSEPA, Local Government Area Health Departments.
-           Impacts of population growth in the urban towns due to-rural-urban migration.
-           Legislation (out dated Public Health law of 1963 as applicable in Ebonyi State.
-           Unwholesome attitude of some health workers – state, LGA, EBSEPA.
-           Low level of literacy in the population.
-           Low level of social awareness on the importance of environmental protection, sanitation and personal Hygiene.
-           Poverty
-           Inadequate supply (or lack) of portable drinking water.
-           Politicization of Environmental sanitation and several public health programmes.

            In this context community can be defined as a group of people who live in a particular area that share similar norms and values (eg Afikpo, Izzi, Ezza Communities (etc) or could be seen from Local Government Area (LGA) perspectives. Each of these communities consists of executive chairman and council members, Development centre coordinators and management team. There are also heads of Departments, political ward councilors and traditional rulers and cabinet. There are heads of industries (where applicable), heads of educational institutions (Primary, Secondary, tertiary), heads of health facilities (public, private). There are also heads of churches, opinion leaders/moulders and other Kins men and women including the youths.
            The essence of this categorization is to bring into focus that communities have several segments very vital for the promotion of environmental protection and sanitation. The new trend of behavioural or altitudinal change globally entails that decisions that will impact positively on the people (including safety of the environment will ideally involve a broad range of stakeholders who stand as beneficiaries. Therefore the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Environmental protection and sanitation should be done collectively through adequate representation of the stakeholders and the government. (State, LGA). This will pave way for the collective ownership of the programme.
            The Roles of the community in the environmental protection, sanitation and disease control programme are enomous. For them to perform and contribute effectively to this programme they require adequate sensitization and commitment.
(i)        Everyone must be made to know about the adverse effects of poor sanitation and personal hygiene practices which includes air, water, soil pollution and food contamination that may result in increase of mortality and morbidity rates and other health hazards in community.
(ii)       To see sanitation as not the responsibility of the government alone but that of everyone in the community which they must protect and sustain at all cost for the interest of all and future generation.
(iii)     To see the great need for positive attitudinal or behavioral change in environmental cleanliness and applying religiously the personal hygiene practices in order to reduce infections.
(iv)      They should always be reminded the slogan that “a healthy community is a wealthy community and “the health of one man is the health of others” and an “Injury to one is an injury to all”

The effects of environmental protection through sanitation and effective personal hygiene practices have impacted positively on the societies or communities throughout human history. Sanitation is a necessity for a healthy life. The results of studies published in griffins public sanitation shows that better sanitation produces an enhanced feeling of well-being. On the contrary many countries and communities are struggling with diseases due to unhealthy living conditions and unfiltered water all in the name of bad sanitation or not having access to potable drinking water.
            This underscores the importance of environmental protection, sanitation and effective personal hygiene for any meaningful socio-economic and political development. The entire LGA chairmen and Development centre coordinators and every community stakeholder should realize this and accord relevant supports to the programme morally and financially.

1.         Government (state local) should provide and release enough funds for environmental protection and sanitation authorities to enable them meet with the demands of public health. Our leaders should note that prevention is better and cheaper than cure.
2.         Provide functional and adequate sanitary equipments and other logistics to improve on the services of the health workers.
3.         Provide a sanitarily designated waste disposal sites and collection dumps to reduce further environmental pollutions.
4.         Recruit more environmental health officers to effectively manage the environment because the present number of EHO’s is very Insignificant in meeting the demands of environmental protection and sanitation.
5.         Review public health law of 1963 and EBSEPA edicts to meet the demands of the day. However the Ebonyi State Government should be commended for the environmental Health Law.
6.         Government should provide adequate potable water for the populace.
7          Provide sanitary facilities (latrines, and waste disposal dustbins) in schools, markets and public places.
8.         Mount aggressive health Education campaign on the need to change our attitudes towards environmental sanitation and to religiously adopt personal hygiene practices in the community. The success of this will guarantee a positive behavioral or attitudinal change vital for meaningful development of the community in all facets.
8.         There is the great need for the Government – (state, local), the health workers (EHOS), all stakeholders and the entire public to imbibe the current behavioral/attitudinal change being propagated by the state Government. They should realize that Environmental sustainability is a collective affair, because the health of one man is the health of all and injury to one is an injury to all.

 Encyclopallia Americana vol. 10 international edition Pp. 479-491
(1998) The World Book Encyclopedia vol. 6 Pg. 329-338.
The new Encyclopedia Britannica vol. 17 Pg. 979-982.
(1995) An introduction to global environmental Issues Kevin Pick et al Pg. 251-263.
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia on SANITATION.
WHO & UNICEF types of improved drinking water sources on JMP website.
WHO & UNICEF Progress on drinking water and sanitation: Special focus on Sanitation.
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