|Prevention is better than cure|
|Monday, 20 August 2012 00:00|
The old adage that prevention is better than cure is still relevant in the modern technological world of today. Many people associate prevention of diseases with HIV and Aids and sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and syphilis, to mention just a few dilapidating conditions.
At least, unlike HIV infection, these STI’s are curable or there are drugs that have been developed which are effective. But even though the drugs are there, it is better to take preventive measures, such as the use of condoms, to stay safe. The cliché is to practice safe sex.
But prevention of disease is not only confined to sexual immorality but also to prevent diseases by providing better sanitation. The most common disease that is very dangerous is TB. The disease is spread by living in unsanitary conditions such as in over-crowded conditions.
The idea of demolishing the overcrowded Harare hostels stated by Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo should be supported despite the disquiet from Harare City Council. The hostels are a time bomb.
It may be prudent to shut down one hostel at a time to allow for the orderly evacuation of the residents.
The fact still remains that the hostels lack suitable sanitation which is even irreparable.
On many occasions when I pass through the area, one is confronted with unbearable stench coming from over-flowing sewers. It is actually better to live in the rural areas than stay in such a filthy environment.
Many cities and towns are not adequately served by better sanitation. There was a suggestion from some government officials that newly built houses could have blair toilets instead of water sanitation. How anyone could suggest such a solution in cities and towns is beyond comprehension.
A study of ancient cities has revealed that there was some form of advanced sanitation in such high-density areas. Historians say that cities like Jerusalem had water-borne sanitation over two thousand years ago.
The reason was not just for convenience but to prevent the spread of diseases. If this was possible in ancient Egypt, Rome and Athens, surely in modern Zimbabwe with highly trained engineers, it is unacceptable to subject residents to unhygienic conditions.
Researchers have reported that a lot money spent on treating water-borne diseases could be better spent on preventing the spread of the diseases through better sanitation. In Harare, there are many boreholes that have been condemned for being heavily polluted.
There is no doubt that the treatment of preventable diseases such as cholera, typhoid, dysentery and many others put a strain on the meagre resources available for the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.
Ministries of Local Government, the Environment and others must be well capacitated to put measures that would prevent these communicable diseases from causing havoc on the population. It has also been reported that mishandling of pesticides by farmers has led to food poisoning.
A few years ago a friend went to buy cabbages, luckily for his home consumption not for resale. He reacted badly to a pesticide that had been sprayed on the cabbages. Apparently the farmer did not or was not aware of the fact the pesticide should have been allowed to degenerate for a period of three weeks before the sprayed cabbages could be sold. Even after selling the cabbages, the farmer should have advised the purchaser to wash the cabbages in running water before cooking them to remove any residue of of the pesticide.
In this case my friend developed a kidney problem due to the effects of the pesticide. He had to seek treatment which cost him a lot of money and nearly his life.
Another important area of prevention is through immunisation, mainly of children. The work being done by clinics to immunise children soon after birth and later until they are at least five years old is most commendable. But there are silent diseases that can be prevented if people eat sensibly. Although many people enjoy drinking beer and smoking, there are many conditions that may afflict the users of these substances.
Today, many cancers are being detected after a prolonged use of these substances.
Although manufacturers are being forced to put warning labels on the packets of these products, human nature being what it is, ignores the warnings.
What is of concern is when the diseases set in and there are no resources to meet the costs nor is there the infrastructure to cater for increased number of patients that need treatment. It is not only the diseases the people get but lost production which affects other companies that have nothing to do with the harmful products. When parents or bread winners get sick, the whole family suffers as well.
What I saw in the USA, especially about the priority they give to sanitation, was an eye opener. Not only is littering punished heavily but the provision of sanitation takes priority in the community. The first thing one comes across is the general upkeep of the environment. Laws on sanitation are strictly enforced. The design of the drainage system is just a world wonder.
Yes, they may have more money to implement their ideas, but they thrive on the application of knowledge.
Engineering is the most respected profession.
All innovations stem from engineering. Science and technology should form the basis of prevention of diseases by providing affordable sanitation to communities rather relying on expensive drug treatments.