With all countries in Africa, Nigeria inclusive, battling COVID-19, “human interaction with the ecosystem must remain balanced, otherwise we will risk disrupting nature which have consequences as we are seeing in the COVID-19 pandemic”, says Minister of Environment Dr Mohammad Abubakar.
Speaking at a Press briefing in Abuja on 04 June 2020 to commemorate World Environment Day 2020 organized by the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMENV), the minister said,” biodiversity is the foundation for life with co-benefits of strengthening global healthcare support systems, hence we must ensure that Post COVID recovery is tied in with our Climate actions and Sustainable Development Goals.”
Every year, 05 June is earmarked as United Nations flagship day on environment – The World Environment Day and it remains one of the famous vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment to enhance political attention and action, as it promotes ways to address issues of climate change, poor sanitation, air pollution, chemical hazards and conservation of ecosystems. This year’s commemoratory event is focused on Biodiversity with a theme “Time for Nature”.
Recent occurrences, like the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrate the interrelationship between the environment and human health as well as the need to strengthen eessential environmental health services, knowledge and national capacities fundamental for achieving universal health coverage. The spillovers of SARS-CoV-2 virus, Ebola, and other infectious pathogens from wildlife (animals) to human being are important reminders on the need for countries to include protection of our biodiversity as part of interventions to effectively manage outbreaks of emerging infectious pathogens that causes sporadic outbreaks, epidemics, or pandemics in human populations through all of government one-health approach.
Nigeria is currently experiencing a growing COVID-19 outbreak since 27 February, 2020 when the index case was recorded.
The outbreak has so far affected 35 States and the Federal Capital Territory with data as of 04 June 2020 showing over 11 000 confirmed cases in the country. Furthermore, it is estimated that 29% of the country’s disease burden is linked to risk factors in the environment.
In her remarks during the event, Dr Fiona Braka the WHO Nigeria Officer In-Charge, represented at the event by Dr Edwin Isotu Edeh, WHO Nigeria National Consultant, Public Health and Environment, commended the Ministry of Environment at federal and state levels for continuing to be a strong response partner to the ongoing all-of- government one- health COVID-19 outbreak response, especially for taking charge of disinfection of premises/assets, decontamination of health facilities, safe burial practices and other priority interventions.
She further noted “the co-benefits of greening the country (including the health sector) as well as addressing environmental determinants of health such as climate change, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), air pollution and preventing chemical poisoning hazards which ranges from reduced health care cost through prevention of communicable and non-Communicable diseases to strengthening inter-sectoral approach towards UHC.”
WHO has continued to support the FMENV led Training of Trainers (TOT) on Disinfection and Decontamination of Health and non-health settings against the pandemic. WHO also supported the training of 36 states environmental surveillance officers on Infection Prevention and Control (Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection) against COVID-19, and remained committed in strengthen environmental response to Lassa Fever and other emerging diseases as well as addressing other environmental determinants of health.
As part of the steps towards refocusing on environment issues in the COVID-19 epidemic response in Nigeria, FMENV has set up a National Forestry Trust Fund under the forestry Department of the Ministry in partnership with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and the World Wildlife Foundation (WFF). In addition, as part of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, the Ministry of Environment has embarked on various disinfection and decontamination exercises against COVID-19 in Nigeria.
Overall, the Federal Government has made a full commitment to the Global Biodiversity Framework under the convention on Biological Diversity and Nigeria is leading all ECOWAS Member-States on sub-regional implementation of the Post 2020 Biodiversity Frame work. .
WHO continues to support the country in building climate-resilient health systems, enhanced preparedness, surveillance and response to health emergencies as well as reduce the health impacts of environmental emergencies.
Dr Rex Mpazanje; Email: mpazanjer [at] who.int; Tel: +234 803 960 0874
Dr Edwin Isotu Edeh; Email: edehe [at] who.int; Tel: +234 806 872 7856