Sierra Leone yesterday joined the world all over to commemorate World Health Day with the theme “Urbanization and Health”. The Day was celebrated with a 7 miles walk from the Victoria Park to Aberdeen Beach in Freetown.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Representative Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu in his speech stated that cities provide great opportunities for the prosperity of individuals and families. He added that at the same time the majority of urban dwellers live in conditions that expose them to extreme hazards affecting both their quality of life and their expectancy.
In many countries of the African Region urbanization has gained a momentum outpacing the ability of governments to provide the infrastructure needed to make life in urban areas, safe and healthy, he said.
The WHO Representative maintained that it is estimated that almost half the urban population in Africa suffer from at least one disease attributable to lack of safe water and adequate sanitation.
He reiterated that people living in poverty in unplanned urban areas suffer disproportionately from a wide range of diseases adding that unhealthy diet and physical inactivity among povertystricken urban dwellers contribute to increased risk of non communicable health conditions such as obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. “We should always remember that health is a human right and its determinants can be positively influenced”.
Dr Alemu noted that investing in active transport; promoting healthy diet, food safety, urban planning and physical activity; enforcing regulatory controls on tobacco; improving living and working conditions including housing, water supply and sanitation; providing amenities and services that promote recreation will go a long way to mitigate health risks in cities.
He called on the public and the urban population in particular, to adopt healthier lifestyles by undertaking regular physical activity, having a healthy diet and reducing smoking and alcohol consumption.
The Director of Primary Health Care at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr Alhassan Sesay said that the theme for the Day highlights the effects of urbanization on the health of people who live and work in cities.
Over the years, he stated that the population has been seen moving from the rural areas to urban towns and studies have shown that urbanization is expected to increase from 40%-60% by the end of 2010.
He added that as people move for better lives the urban towns and cities are now faced with serious consequences and challenges.
Dr Sesay pointed out that overcrowding in slums, lack of water and poor sanitation resulting in diarrhoeal diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
As a ministry, he explained that they have put in place a series of programmes and activities for most of these slums to have facilities to provide care for the sick.
The Director stated that they have also put programmes in place for the provision of safe drinking water through well construction, rehabilitation and water chlorination.