By Charles Tjatindi
Health inspectors and regional environmental health officers representing various town councils and municipalities around the country are gathered in Walvis Bay for a training workshop on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).
HACCP is a tool used in food industries and food outlets for assessing hazards, and enables health inspectors to establish control systems that focus on prevention rather than relying on end product testing.
The workshop aims at ensuring that at least 50% of environmental officers in the country have the skills and knowledge that will enable them to effectively capacitate food outlet managers and other workers in food hygiene.
The three-day workshop, which started yesterday, was organized by the Directorate of Primary Health Care in the Ministry of Health and Social Services.
According to Food Quality Assurance Programme Manager in the directorate, Mooy Iitamalo, the workshop is necessary because her directorate has been inundated with complaints by members of the public with regard to alleged spoilt food items found in food outlets.
“Because of all those complaints, we decided it was high time that we get all our health inspectors together to reflect and empower them with regard to the HACCP as a tool to remedy such situations,” she said.
Recently, some local supermarket dealers in the country were in the news for allegedly selling food items that are beyond their sell-by date, raising health concerns from buyers. Although most of these supermarkets and food outlets have denied the allegations, the Ministry of Health considers the situation critical, hence the need for the ongoing workshop.
“The emphasis of the HACCP tool, which will form the basis of the training workshop, is to focus on the prevention stage of food health than to try remedying the situation through end product testing,” Iitamalo added
The Government, through the Ministry of Health, adopted a National Environmental Health Policy, which amongst others serves as a framework to prevent and control health hazards that may adversely affect the health quality of life for all people.
The policy was born out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – the Earth Summit – which highlighted the international health sector’s dependency on proper and sustainable development.
It was however only at the 49th session of the World Health Organization Regional Committee for Africa that the initiative on the policy was taken a step closer to realization. According to the WHO, it is estimated that poor environmental living and working conditions are directly responsible for about 25% of all preventable illness, while 66% of all preventable ill health due to environmental conditions occurs among children.
The National Health Environmental Policy states that some of the most common causes of illness in Namibia are preventable through the improvement of people’s living and working conditions.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MOHSS) and the local authorities are the principal providers of environmental health services in Namibia.