Mak hosts 3rd IFEH and 16th MUEHSA Conference

The 3rd International Federation of Environmental Health (IFEH) and 16th Makerere University Environmental Health Students' Association (MUEHSA) Conference kicked off on 9th April 2019 at Hotel Africana. Officially opened by the Prime Minister of Uganda Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, represented by the State Minister for Health-Primary Health Care, Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the three days' conference is running from 9th-11th April 2019 under the theme: Environmental Health: A Cornerstone to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 3rd International Federation of Environmental Health and 16th Makerere University Environmental Health Students' Association (MUEHSA) Conference brings together experts in environmental sciences and health, around the world to stimulate multidisciplinary and multisectoral collaboration in environmental health; central to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); particularly SDG 3 and SDG 6.

The Conference builds on the environmental health actions that seek to capture and spread the good practices as well as providing potential approaches to be adopted by environmental health Practitioners during their community activities.

According to the Dean, School of Public Health, Makerere University Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze, the Conference is the first to be hosted in Africa and has come at a time when environmental health continues to play a pivotal role in existing global health concerns.

Currently the world is facing challenges such as food safety, pollution, water, sanitation, improper housing, hygiene, antimicrobial resistance, climate change as well as one health especially in our developing countries. -This requires the active engagement and participation of environmental health practitioners to come up with solutions and innovations to address the challenges, she said.

In a speech read by the State Minister for Health-Primary Health Care, Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the Prime Minister applauded the organizers of the conference for developing a platform for practitioners, academicians, researchers, policy makers, implementers, funders, legislators and students to discuss and find solutions on improving Environmental Health Practices.

According to Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda through the Ministry of Health has focused on preventative than curative measures while handling environmental health matters. The Ministry appointed Environmental Health Officers who have made a significant role towards controlling major health epidemics such as plaque, cholera, and Ebola.

Over the years, the profession has continued to evolve and Environmental Health Officers have played a key role in disease surveillance and carrying out research on epidemic outbreak. The tremendous work that Health Inspectors have played to ensure that households are habitable is undeniable. We have made great contribution to improve access to water and ensure proper sanitation and hygiene, he remarked.

He emphasized the importance of investing in Environmental Health when he said, environmental health is a critical field that needs proper attention. It is the backbone of Public health. The environment we live in determines our health status. The Government of Uganda is currently spending UGX260 billion, annually on treatment of preventable diseases and we shall spend less if we put a lot of effort in preventive measures, said the Prime Minister.

Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda cited the need for continued capacity building and research support in the field of environmental health. He applauded the government of Uganda for committing UGX30 billionto support research in Universities.

The President of the International Federation of Environmental Health-Dr. Selva Mudaly appealed to politicians and other leaders of the world to support activities geared towards environmental conservation. Climate change is a reality. Don't look away. The recent widespread flooding in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi is a caution of what is happening in Africa. Don't wait for the wake up, break up and then start looking for environmental scientists, said Dr. Selva Mudaly.

He called upon responsible officers to prioritise and fund disaster and risk management trainings. He also encouraged researchers to take research to communities.

The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University represented by Prof. William Bazeyo-the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, noted that Environmental Health is the beginning of Public Health. He informed participants that environmental health links the nation to its community. He applauded the School of Public Health for being the flagship of Makerere University in research, publications, human resource development and quality production.

According to Prof. Bazeyo, the world is facing a big problem of one health; non communicable and communicable diseases. He therefore urged scientists to take the topics seriously and find solutions.

During the opening ceremony, the President of the International Federation of Environmental Health Dr. Selva Mudaly handed over the Roy Emerson Award to the 2019 winner, Mr. George William Ssendagala; a student of Food Science and technology at Makerere University.

The Roy Emerson Award is an essay competition for Environmental Health undergraduate students from IFEH Member Countries or IFEH Academic Association members. Organized by the International Federation of Environmental Health, the 2019 competitions called upon students to discuss and critically appraise the aims to support the provision of safe food, to make use of precious water & nutrient resources, and for communities to increasingly value sustainable food production on the topic; Global Food Safety and Sustainability.

George William Ssendagala's area of focus was on Developments in the Obushera in Uganda- a traditional fermented drink in Africa.

I looked at fermented foods in Africa, America, Europe and Asia to get a big picture and then narrowed down to Obushera in Uganda. My aim was to understand the safety issues that are negatively affecting the industry of Obushera production and the waste management process since the drink is packaged mostly in plastic materials picked from garbage, he said.

The 3rd International Federation of Environmental Health and 16th Makerere University Environmental Health Students' Association (MUEHSA) Conference will end on 11th April 2019. During the three days, participants will go through an exciting programme consisting of keynote addresses, oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, workshops, exhibitions, mentorship, career guidance session, student's debates and meetings.

The Chairperson of the Conference Organizing Committee, Makerere University School Public Health Dr. David Musoke, encouraged participants to explore opportunities that the conference is offering especially potential collaboration in teaching, research and practice.

I wish to thank everyone who has contributed to the success of this conference. My humble appreciation goes to IFEH, Ministry of Health, Makerere University, Environmental Health Workers Association of Uganda, Nottingham Trent University, UK and all sponsors and partners who have played a vital role in making this conference a success, said Mr. George Oryongatum, the Conference Co-Chairperson and MUEHSA President.

Source: Makerere University

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