In Need Of A Healthy Environment To Fight Diseases
At this point, Malaysia is facing the threat the covid-19 outbreak. This is a crisis that is a concern to everyone. As we know, part of the reason behind this outbreak has something to do with our environment. The unclean or unhealthy environment is indeed speeding up the spread of various diseases.
A report by World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016 entitled “Preventing Disease through Healthy Environment,” shows that 23 per cent of global deaths and 26 per cent of deaths among children under five are due to modifiable environmental factors. These environmental factors include pollution of air, water and soil, occupational risk (example, physical, chemical, biological and psychosocial risk), built environments (housing, workplace and roads), man-made climate and ecosystem change. Leading the list are stroke, ischaemic heart disease, diarrhoea and cancers. In addition to the diseases mentioned here, other diseases result from changes in the quality of the environment such as diarrhoeal diseases, intestinal nematode infections (e.g. hookworm disease), parasitic and vector diseases (malaria, trachoma, Chagas disease, dengue) and many more.
The above-mentioned diseases are directly associated with the unclean or polluted environment. However, some illnesses are common to us but are rarely linked to the deteriorating environmental quality. These illnesses, also known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs), are indirectly linked to the environment. For example, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPDs) which part of it is caused by human surrounding such as household air pollution, ambient air pollution or exposure to dust in the workplace. The same goes to asthma which is also related to air pollution. Deaths due to NCDs attributable to poor air quality (as well as exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke), are around 8.2 million deaths.
The quality of the environment undoubtedly affects human health. This is not only concerned with major environmental problems such as climate change or loss of biodiversity but involves simple problem such as cleanliness. There is an English idiom that says, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” The phrase shows that cleanliness is a symbol of purity or goodness. Even in Islam, cleanliness is imperative and emphasized continuously as an important requirement in various forms of worship. Those who constantly maintain cleanliness are loved by Allah SWT. He said, “For God loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean” (Al-Baqarah, 2:222).
Upholding cleanliness is vital not only for Muslims but is also the responsibility of every person. It is only natural for everyone to love clean and beautiful surroundings. Thus, maintaining cleanliness should be a habit or something routine for humans. If we can ensure a clean environment, it can reduce the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes thus preventing dengue fever. If we can keep our hands clean at all times, most likely we can avoid stomach ache and diarrhoea. It would also help to stop the spread of various infectious diseases and Covid-19 is one of them. Meanwhile, ensuring that food is fully covered from flies would prevent contamination and stop us from getting ill.
However, other than focusing on personal hygiene, we must also maintain environmental cleanliness because a healthy environment is indispensable for a healthy population. Dr Margaret Chan, former WHO Director-General (2006-2017) once said, “If countries do not take actions to make environments where people live and work healthy, millions will continue to become ill and die too young.”
Thus, it is crucial to focus on reducing or eliminating environmental risks. Investment on various strategies to minimize the risks, either in cities, households or workplaces, must be the ultimate concern at this moment. The strategies should include the utilization of green technologies, the introduction of related laws and regulations, changes in the public’s lifestyle and many more. The strategies taken must be in tandem with the economic strength and social capacities of a nation and concentrating on the cost-effective and easy to implement measures.
For example, recent no-smoking law introduced by the Malaysian government in early January 2020 is timely as it will help to reduce public exposure to second-hand smoke. Further measures to be considered are to reduce the use of solid fuels for cooking, increase access to low-carbon energy technologies, an incentive for green products and services usage, price reduction for eco-friendly goods and so forth.
Maintaining a high standard of hygiene is vital in the pursuit of achieving healthy and majestic surroundings. Washing your hands, cleansing oneself, avoiding smoke from cigarettes or vehicles, cleaning the house and so on are basic practices that do not require a lot of money but are effective in maintaining the beauty and cleanliness of the environment. Keeping the environment fresh, pure and healthy is vital to maintaining healthy societies and it all starts with us.