June 21, 2009

Re: Lassa fever and our hygiene

By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
JUDGING from our readers’ responses to the piece we put  out the other week, it appears Nigeria is sitting on a time-bomb, health-wise.  Again, the blame is laid at the door of the authorities at all levels.

‘Madam, I’m in my eighties and I must say that in all these years I’ve been living in this country, I’ve never seen our environment so filthy as it has been in the last fifteen years.

Right, left and centre, it’s filth, and more filth.  In my childhood, you wouldn’t see any pile of rubbish on the roadside.  Yet, we had only a handful of highly educated people in the country.

If you had the first school leaving certificate from the primary school, it was like you had a university degree.  You were enlightened enough to know that a dirty environment constituted a lot of danger to human health, and you did your best to keep your home and environment clean.

What’s more, you ensured that you educated your relatives and neighbours on the need to live in a clean setting.  These days, we have so many university graduates of all sorts and they happily live in filthy conditions.

They live in filth, and even create filth, so, they can’t set a good example to the masses.  One day, a serious epidemic will almost wipe out the country.  I’m not wishing us evil, but this is the truth if the authorities don’t take the issue of a clean environment seriously.   Pa Fidon, Warri.

‘Sometimes, I feel it’s best not airing your view in this country.  What’s the use?   The government at any level will not listen.  Apart from you, madam, other media people have been shouting out loud about the filthy conditions under which we live in this country.

But all the views and suggestions fall on deaf ears.  There’s no world statistics on filthy environment yet, but I bet Nigeria would be one of the worst.  Lassa Fever is child’s play, compared with other mysterious ailments our citizens have to cope with, due to dirty surroundings.

I pray that the Lord will raise up conscientious rulers who cares about the populace for us.  Thanks.  Mrs Ire, Lagos.

‘My view, madam, about the environment in this country, is that sanitary inspectors should be brought back.  This may sound archaic in this jet age, but it’s the only way that we can avoid epidemics like Typhoid Fever, Lassa Fever, Cholera, etc.   Each local government area should have a team of sanitary inspectors who would go round their communities and inspect open spaces around.

Ponds, gutters, canals and other places where water collects, and bushes,  would be sprayed with insecticide, to kill mosquitoes and other deadly insects.  Refuse at the back of the house and selected open spaces,  would be burnt on a regular basis, and cleared away. This practice should obtain all over the country, right down to hamlets in remote areas.’ Bassey, Calabar.

‘We are not doing enough to keep our environment clean, and government’s lackadaisical attitude towards health issues doesn’t help matter.  I do commend Governor Fashola for his efforts in beautifying Lagos.  Some areas are now a delight to look at, but what about the refuse on the streets?

Where I live, government lorries come once in a while to collect refuse, then we’re slammed with a monthly bill of N1500!   I don’t know how honest this is of the government since the lorry comes only once a month, instead of the four times a month that the operators told us at the initial stage.

I won’t be surprised if people don’t want this added financial responsibility, along with tenement rates, water rates, etc.  When the lorry doesn’t come, where does our refuse go?

People are not likely to stash it under their beds.   Late at night, in high density areas, you find people going to dump refuse on the high road; blocking the drains and helping to create stagnant water where epidemic insects breed..   Thanks.   Mama Kemi, Olodi Apapa, Lagos.

‘Until the government starts prosecuting people for allowing a filthy environment, there would be no end to epidemics of all sorts in this country.

Those exposing food to contamination cannot say that their common sense doesn’t tell them that it is wrong to dry food items by the roadside where they can collect dirt and dust from passing vehicles, and where animals can tamper with them.

Or, sell uncovered akara, puff puff, fried fish, by the road side.  They know it doesn’t look right, but they’re not aware of the immense danger to the health of human beings who consume them.

The authorities should first of all prick their conscience about the dirty habit, with a public awareness, and then start prosecuting those who continue the habit.

The problem is that the average Nigerian wants to get away with misbehavior, and corrupt government officials encourage this bad habit by accepting bribes in order not to prosecute offenders.  Stiff penalties for these two sets of people would yield some good results.

Bamidele, Ibadan. If our people would handle the campaign against an unhealthy environment with the zeal with which they campaign for votes during elections, our lives would be the much better for it.

It is disappointing that most citizens in this country still wallow in ignorance about the havoc that filthy environment and filthy habits can do to our lives.

Look at the gutters around you. Before the advent of Pure Water sachets, we had gutters which allowed water  through to find its way to a disposal area.

These days pure water sachets have clogged up the gutters, and other water outlets, causing floods and building up pools of water where dangerous insects breed.  What are the health officials doing about this?’  Musa, Kaduna.

‘Hygiene as a subject should be back to the classrooms, right from the nursery class level.  Children are the ones who grow into adults.  If you don’t bring them up (at home and at school) to observe good hygiene, they would develop filthy habits which would pollute the environment.

Are the environment sanitation Saturdays having the desired effects throughout the nation?

In my view, the officials sent out there to supervise the exercise are more keen on arresting people so that they can extort money from them, than to actually see that the environment is clean.

If those found on the streets cannot ‘settle’ these officials, they’re carted off to prison.  Meanwhile their families would have no idea where they are, and they can be there, awaiting trial, for years.

If the government is serious about cleanliness, they should stop arresting people, and concentrate more on getting people to clean their environment.  If people are on the streets illegally, detain them where they are until the exercise is over.

Or, if they are fit, get them to clean the street on which they were found.  I think that’s a more useful deterrent.  Thanks.  Teddy, Ikeja.’

We thank all those who responded to our write-up.