The issue of environmental health in Nigeria is one that has lingered for decades. Successive governments have crafted policies and adopted programs to improve the level of environmental health but have very little to show in terms of achievement. Environmental health has to do with the biological, chemical, and physical agents that are found in the environment and their effect on humans and the environment. A good environment is one that does not negatively affect the health of the people living there.
Environmental health affects our personal health because one can only be as healthy as their environment allows them. Even if you exercise daily, eat a balanced diet, and keep a healthy lifestyle, if your environment is very unhealthy, your health can suffer for that.
Many Nigerians today live in very unhealthy environments. This cuts across those living in rural areas and the cities. A lot of things contribute to the nature of these unhealthy environments, including overpopulation, poverty, lack of basic amenities, improper waste disposal, and a general lack of awareness. One 2017 study highlighted some major environmental health problems in Nigeria.
A tour through cities and towns across the country would tell you that we have an environmental health crisis. In 2019, it was recorded that Nigeria faced the second-highest number of open defecation behind India. While a lot has been done in the past, more can still be done in the coming years that would improve environmental health around the country.
Some of the bold steps that can be taken to address the issue of environmental health include:
1. Mass Sensitisation
The first place to begin is to educate the people about the need to maintain a healthy environment. Man’s activities contribute to how healthy or unhealthy an environment is. Ignorance and lack of awareness make people do the wrong things that negatively affect the environment. By taking steps to educate the people of the things they should do and not do to maintain a healthy environment. They can also be taught on how to reduce waste at home. This will ensure that people can feel responsible for their environment and take steps towards maintaining it.
2. Provision Of Basic Amenities
One major problem facing Nigeria is the lack of basic amenities. People in rural areas and even some parts of the cities do not have access to basic amenities like clean water and toilets. Water plays a very important role in keeping the environment clean, and lack of it could make the environment more unhealthy and dirty to live in. Lack of toilets leads to open defecation, a habit that negatively affects the environment and the lives of those living around there. Lack of basic amenities also leads to overcrowding as people move to places where these amenities are, which would have a negative impact on the environment.
3. Effective Government Policies
To solve the issues surrounding environmental health, the government would have to make it a priority and develop policies that would improve the situation of things. But developing these policies is not enough as more work has to be done in ensuring the implementation and execution of these policies to achieve the desired results.
National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is the main environmental agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria that was established in 2007 to ensure a cleaner and healthier environment for Nigerians. Although it serves as a parastatal for the Federal Ministry of Environment, it is responsible for enacting several regulations regarding environmental protection, regulating environmental compliance and enforcement of actions.
4. Provision Of Proper Waste Disposal Facilities
Another issue people face most times is where to dispose of their waste. Lack of proper waste disposal facilities leads to indiscriminate dumping of waste. People would be forced to leave their waste anywhere, including streams, bushes, or just leave it to pile up in front of their house. All of this can have a serious negative impact on both environmental and personal health. The government and some private entities can facilitate the provision of proper means to dispose of waste. This includes regular and timely waste pick up, treated dumps, and recycling facilities.
Improving environmental health in Nigeria requires work from both the government and the citizens. The government has to do its part to provide amenities and formulate programs towards building a healthy country. The people also have to make sure that they do the right thing by following laid down rules and guidelines of waste disposal, and also making proper use of provided amenities and facilities. Let us all keep in mind that safer water, better sanitation, hygiene and environmental health will reduce child mortality in Nigeria.