The House of Representatives has called on the ministry of Environment to collaborate with the ministry of Health and other relevant agencies in efforts to stamp out the Ebola virus from the country.
The chairman, House committee on Environment, Uche Ekwunife, made the call on Monday at an emergency stakeholders meeting with representatives of the federal ministry of Environment, the Environmental Health Officers’ Registration Council of Nigeria and the National Park in Abuja.
Ekwunife said it was sad that in just about three weeks, 10 cases of the Ebola virus and two deaths have been officially documented, while dozens of others have been quarantined and are under close observation by medical practitioners.
She noted that the root cause of the virus lies in the environment with regards to animals, especially the fruit bat and stressed that there was need for the enforcement of environmental safety regulations as they concern public health.
“The essence of this session is to see how you can nip the disease in the bud as managers of our environment. The National Park is involved since the virus reservoir is said to be certain animals. And we can’t over-emphasise the work of the Environment ministry, because without the environment, no business can survive in our society,” the chairman said.
Ekwunife commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his prompt declaration of a national emergency on the outbreak of the virus in Nigeria.
She also and called on the federal government to adequately fund the ministry of Environment and its relevant agencies in approaching the fight against Ebola outbreak from the public and environmental health angle.
The registrar, Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria, Ebisike Augustine, outlined areas of concern in combating the disease to be poor sanitation, harmful cultural practices, waste disposal, choice of meat of Nigerians as well as crowd control, amongst others.
“Legislation is also very important. There are laws which operated from the 60s and 70s. The Health Bill needs to be expanded from its current narrow scope of medical to include public health concerns,” he said.
Resolutions reached at the meeting included that the ministry of Environment carry out a massive environmental awareness and attitudinal change initiatives to improve citizens’ knowledge, attitude and practice on environmental sanitation and hygiene.
It was also agreed that massive disinfection and dis-infestations of all public places in the country be carried out to limit the spread of Ebola and drastically reduce bats and pets.