MINISTRY of Health permanent secretary in charge of administration Dr George Magwende says the environment has always been dirty, even before Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) came into play.

And Dr Magwende says there is need to enhance awareness about preventive measures among school-going children because adults are already spoiled.

Last week, Citizens Environmental and Social Concern (CESCo) executive director Conwell Hakapya expressed concern that the lack of a proper disposal system for Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) remained a challenge.

Hakapya said the use of incinerators in the disposal of PPEs in residential areas had negative effects on the environment and human health.

But in an interview, Dr Magwende said the environment was dirty even without PPEs.

He said people did not care about the environment, and there was need to change that mentality.

“I totally agree with you Dorothy, even before PPEs came into play, have you seen how much plastic bottles we throw around? It’s the same sickness we are talking about, environmental awareness. How many wraps of sweets have been thrown around? How many bottles of water have we thrown around? How many plastics after using it, from Shoprite, PnP, those plastics, how do we dispose of them? It’s the same mentality that makes you and me not to take care of the PPEs in a particular manner. Our colleagues in certain jurisdictions have bins where you throw the biodegradables, where you throw paper, where you throw plastics, here we have bins where you throw everything. Somebody will bypass a bin and throw something on the floor. So it is that sickness, it’s not about PPEs, it’s about our mentality. So we need to work on our mentality,” Dr Magwende said.

“How many times have you seen somebody throw something out of the window? So we need to inculcate that care in our children regardless of whether it’s PPEs or what, it is all plastic, it is not biodegradable and it degrades our environment. So the picture should not just be about Covid, it should not be about PPEs, it should be an overall of our approach to life, how we should care about our environment. I’m sure you have had an opportunity to travel to certain jurisdictions, you don’t see litter around but there are human beings there because they take care of the environment. Here you just go, just outside UTH you will see how much litter is around because we don’t care about the environment, even without PPEs, our environment is dirty, was dirty, so we need to change that.”

And Dr Magwende said there was need to enhance awareness about preventive measures among school-going children because adults were already spoiled.

“For me, the best way to deal with it, it would be to instill that cleanness, that awareness in the children because you and I are already spoiled. Adults are already spoiled, yes, there are a few that may change but [it is] very difficult. But when we instill that, we align that together with the education system. Your kid tells you ‘no mum this is wrong, no mum teacher says…’, it becomes very easy for you to follow because you don’t want to be embarrassed in front of your child. So it becomes a stronger argument, a stronger whip for us to use to change. So I think the school system is a very important tool for the fundamental changes that we need to make,” said Dr Magwende.

“We need to enhance awareness about preventive measures among the school-going children. When we instill that sense of prevention, washing hands, wearing masks, avoiding crowded spaces, getting vaccinated and healthy living behaviours like jogging, watching what you eat, I think that should be a part and parcel for our day-to-day learning. It will then avert a lot of diseases in future. Today we are grappling with Covid, we don’t know what we might be grappling with tomorrow. But the principles of managing such problems will still be the same, so why not learn now, to abate future calamities?”