Health and environment are linked. In fact, most people prefer using the phrase environmental health to have the union of the two. The union intends to show how influences of human health could come from changes in the environment.
But, within environmental health, there are other issues, like poverty, population, organic farming, environmental politics, environmental health accounting, environmental health protection and environmental stress (from humans and climatic changes). In other words, it would simply mean external factors that potentially affect health.
The environmental health continues to be under serious threat from; ever increasing population that encroach it, lack of concern from both communities and their leaders, multinational firms’ scaling up of pesticide and chemical use in agriculture, and degradation of the environment -without moral conscience.
Use of chemicals is said to be highly destructive not only to weeds and pests but also to humans. Apart from losing the natural taste of food, eating food crops sprayed with chemicals, even after several hours of cooking, could soon have it settle in vital organs of the body -as lungs and liver. And thereafter, lifespan of humans and animals could be lowered.
Unfortunately, suppliers of such destructive drugs are big corporate firms -that are capable of bribing off influential African leaders, employing huge numbers of people and investing heavily in advertisements. As such, it would be so easy to shut people’s mouths -majority of who are beneficiaries, not to complain or advocate otherwise.
Yet, just looking at organic farming, which uses natural solutions to agricultural problems, it is something that is environmentally friendly -meaning that whatever constituent of the environment is not harmed. Rather, people practicing it co-exist with an understanding of the knowledge of sustainability in resource utilization.
Communities, in this case, are mindful of paying back to the environment from which they find food -with no pollutants, and ensuring that natural resources regenerate. There is, therefore, mutual benefit, unlike in scenarios -where use of pesticides, bush-burning and huge de-forestation for arable land is the mentality. Organic products are natural and in line with the similarly natural needs of the body.
And products are what consumers could be willing to pay more for in order to safeguard life. The practice of farming is itself gentle to the earth -where both compliment each other in terms of soil conservation, conservation of vegetative cover and ensuring sustainability.
Pressure on land has forced many to migrate into game and forest reserves, and thus, catapulting into aggravated de-forestation, and extinction of rare species of both animals and plants. In south west Busoga forest reserve, in Mayuge District, it is now history that there used to be buffalos and hippopotamuses in the area.
It is a place with most violent panga-yielding encroachers ever known in Uganda. They can go as far as attacking tree-planters, cutting down artificial plantation, and even uprooting of newly planted trees.
Such grave environment degradation is what in turn adds to the already existing threat of global warming, adversely affecting ecological balances, leading to natural punishments (natural disasters), and creating conditions for disease causing germs as well as immunological disturbances.
Encroachment is a key critical issue, but governments in Africa are passive about dealing with the problem. Instead, they focus more on political goals. Politics is usually mixed with serious environmental health concerns. In Uganda, the problem, mainly, is with the forest resource.
For wild life, it is well able to quell off encroachers -according to reports by forest officials in Uganda. There is a kind of discrimination in regard to forest land protection, as would be compared to resources like oil and wild life.
With many of them being immigrants from other regions of the Uganda, the reason they (encroachers) give is lack of land for food production, where denial of forest or animal park land would mean starvation to death. In fighting to live, they are willing to be shot down.
But independent observers say encroachers are runaway criminals, who ended up in forests. And those in the forest think justice can hardly be processed to the very end, which gives them a feeling of personal safety.
The passivity of local leaders has not generated action against encroachers -since they are voters capable of helping regimes in Africa stay in power. Governments, therefore, find it a delicate issue to handle. Instead, they choose to keep a blind eye as the environment is massively degraded.
While family planning would be an excellent strategy to combat growing population, the conservative lives of most Africans do not give room to the practice. Education too is out of reach for the majority of the populations around game and forest reserves -realizing that such areas tend to be remote.
The remoteness implies total absence of schools as much as the value of education. Yet, In line with education, going to school is said to discourage high birth rate and living without planning for the future. Some areas like Mayuge District have mainly junior level schools and parents value less the idea of sending children to school.
Parents think educating children is a waste of money, and that in the first place, it is hard to get. While at the same time their forest life is unpredictable -since they believe government would at one time expel them. So, surviving day by day is all they look at. Nevertheless, older men would always be on the look out for breast-pointing young girls to devour sexually. As a Consequence, many drop out before joining secondary schools.
There public health concerns in the face of high population growth -with pressure on utilities and irresponsible behavior in handling of community resources. People in such areas, as game and forest reserves -hardly care about hygiene and sanitation. Instead, the reserves act toilets or latrines.
And because they lack clean water, they frequently “host” water-borne diseases. Worse still, inaccessibility to reproductive health services makes them prey to HIVAIDS and other STIs/STDs. Where would you find condoms whilst in such areas?
The implications here are; improper disposal of waste materials, early sexual intercourse and rural prostitution around town centers. Further, in such areas, sexual intercourse is like taking a cup of tea -this time round, in Western Europe context, where anytime is believed to be tea time.
Besides, lack of proper nutrition, lack of well trained personnel, and engineered lack of drugs put local residences more at the risk of dying from the mainly water-borne, sexually transmitted infections and other simple infections -that would otherwise be treated.
Since health services are inaccessible, local residents resort to traditional medicine. Rarely would you walk in rural areas without meeting a kind of “Dr” Rashid Lukwago clinic that fill gaps where modern medicine has failed to reach. However, with integrated health service delivery system, traditional medicine and modern are one, though standards need to be set for the former.
People, there, are at subsistence level. They have very little or nothing to sale such that money is generated to buy medical drugs. Herbal medicine, therefore, becomes the most appropriate to them.
Interestingly, people claim herbs have been more effective at curing serious illnesses than modern medicine. No wonder, recent health strategy called for a twin approach to treatment of diseases.
Much as the lucky urban and semi-urban areas would be found with decent health care facilities, patients find no drugs in them. What is thought to be free treatment at government health centers is never so. At best they would offer blood testing and prescription. The patient, then, plays the last role of going to the pharmaceutical shop find drugs.
Perhaps, it is cost-sharing at work that government introduced in earlier stages of its rule. But, remember, people are poor. If unable to buy medicinal drugs, and when traditional herbs fail, they could succumb to death.
The health sector happens to be one of the most infested government departments with acts of corruption. As a remedy, liberalization of the economy in general and health sector particularly in this case, sounded as though was the answer.
However, doing so, well, helped to improve on services offered. On the other hand, only the rich could afford. The poor, as usual, were left out -and only had to pray that they do not fall sick and get close to their creator.
Not very long ago, health ministers were implicated for misuse of global funds meant for prevention and treatment of malaria and HIV/AIDS. As the lords where busy feasting and driving posh cars around, AIDS patients were dying. Sincerely, where are the hearts in the Uganda’s political players?
Unfortunately, belief in witchcraft is another problem in such areas. Any strange incident could call for a witch-doctor’s consultation or referral to cultural norms. It was not surprising; therefore, when findings by butabika hospital showed that majority of people in Uganda preferred traditional healers or faith-based prayers to health centers -as curative.
Meanwhile, the same cultural ideas could be so entrenched that changing attitudes might pose a challenge. Development pace could be slow or even static -since people find it “impossible” to think beyond simple cultural excuses. Actually, witchcraft, being at the center of cultural practices, plays roles of what science would be purposed for.
Without encouraging people to take their children to school such that young people post-pone marriage, it would always be hard to control infections and diseases as much as to change their attitudes towards the mainly useless cultural beliefs.
Useless cultures could have adverse connections to almost everything in life -be it with health service promotion, proper agricultural practices and viable leadership or managerial options. All could suffer under wrong mentalities.
More so, as the saying goes, “educate a woman, educate the nation.” The saying, just as from; different research findings on gender, experiences and the statistical occurrence of child abuse and neglect cases, educated men would tend to act more irresponsibly on matters of child development than educated women.
There could be a difference between good orderliness of a family of an educated mother and one -who is uneducated. Education, which is understandably, the high intellectual state and tangible resourcefulness of a person -long after he or she has left school, could help scale down incidences of child abuse and neglect.
Upon this background, prospective parents must go or return to school not just to attend classes, but to learn. Having done so, the future could have environmentally caring and patriotic generation.