True to its theme “Environmental Health – the cornerstone of preventative and sustainable health care delivery in South Africa”, the first day of the 2014 National Conference on Environmental Health emphasized the need to understand the effects of environmental concerns on the wellbeing of our nation.
Mr Selva Mudaly, national President of the South African Institute of Environmental Health (SAIEH), emphasized that it is important to have sufficient human resources at local government institutions.
“It will take time for us to erase the backlog of Environmental Health practitioners as it is important to have enough employees to deal with the different environmental issues. At the moment one of the big issues in the world is rodent infestations and in order for us to deal with it effectively, you need workers to spread messages about prevention.
“A recent study by the South African Local Government Association indicates that a backlog of almost 2 900 vacancies exist for Environmental Health Practitioners across the country,” Mudaly added.
Environmental Health Portfolio Chairperson Patricia Ndlovu decried a lack of resources and made an appeal to the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, to capacitate the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality with the necessary infrastructure and the means to employ more qualified Environmental Health Practitioners.
Put your reports in context
Mr Patrick Nodwele, a respected Environmental Health Practitioner (EHP) from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, reminded delegates that the greatest weakness of environmental reports to senior officials and the political leadership is the lack of interpreting data and converting it to information.
“The environmental reports that we looked at from the Metropolitan Municipalities clearly address environmental issues but do not look at the comprehensive picture. The issues have an effect on human health and we must look at the health outcomes.
“It is perhaps the reason why our work is sometimes misunderstood,” he said.
Mr Mpilo Mbambisa, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality City Manager, said the municipality deals with sewerage leaks, waste management and other environmental health issues on a daily basis to the best of its ability to improve the living conditions of our residents.
“Problems can be reported at 0800 20 50 50 and the newly inducted Ward Committees can also be used as vehicles to deal with issues in the community,” he said.
Several issues such as game meat control, the role of the EHP to manage food safety, bacteria in drinking water, E.Coli and green initiatives are amongst the many important topics that will be discussed over the next two days.
Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Acting Executive Mayor Wandisile Jikeka opened the august conference and committed the municipality to deal with environmental issues effectively to ensure better living conditions for the people.
The national conference at The Boardwalk Convention Centre continues until Friday, 29 August.
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