An environmental disaster was in the making in Zanzibar, thanks God that it was discovered just in time though damage had already been done. The major concern remains what if this had not been discovered or continued for a long time?
The referral hospital of Mnazi Mmoja in Zanzibar dumped medical waste into the Shangani Channel in the heart of Stone Town sending scares to beach goes and threatening marine life. It took several rounds of cleaning to return the area to normalcy.
Any medical or hospital waste is categorised as hazardous. Standards and guidelines under World Health Organization (WHO) require safe collection, storage, handling, transfer and disposal of such waste. Globally, medical waste must be incinerated, and this must be strictly adhered to for the good of the environment and health.
In Zanzibar, the Environmental Management Act No 3 of 2015 and the Public Health Act prohibit any form of careless dumping of any solid or hazardous waste and there are penalties imposed on anyone who contravenes the provisions of these Acts. Anyone means any person, institution or government.
We know of a number of responsible employees of the Health ministry who have raised this issue with their bosses. They vigorously opposed this senseless, illegal and harmful way of crude dumping of the such extreme forms of hazardous waste. Every time they protest within the ambit of the administrative procedures they are met with cynical and irresponsible response.
Lack of incinerator does not give licence to do what was done as the hospital staff fully know the consequences. Only lame excuses will be entertained. The law must and should take its course. Whoever authorised such a careless and hazardous act of dumping medical wastes into the ocean must be taken to task. Such shameful acts not only endanger the lives of our innocent people that the government claims to be serving and protecting against all forms of Health and sanitation hazards, but dents the ongoing efforts of development partners such as the World Bank and WHO in supporting the people of Zanzibar improve their health and environmental standards and quality of life.
As a Unesco World Heritage Site, the image of Stone Town is already at risk. What about tourism? How can the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar boast about investing in sustainable tourism while their very health administrators are involved in such a criminal activity of dumping medical waste into the coastal and marine environment?
Can the government assure hundreds of thousands of tourists from North America, Europe, Asia and Australia that their lives are safe during their stay in the Islands?
What prevents the government from securing a safe location for medical waste disposal if they claim not to be able to acquire an incinerator? This must stop and we call on the international community for help if the government doesn't see the importance of adhering to responsible ways of medical waste disposal. We urge the WB, UNDP, Unesco, WHO and all those who care to help us save ourselves and our islands from an irresponsible act of dumping committed by Mnazi Mmoja Hospital Administration under the full knowledge of the Ministry of Health.
Going from the above, we would expect not only steps being taken against the culprits but we will be more interested to see if an enquiry was conducted and follow the chain. Why and for what reason the main referral hospital in Zanzibar would go without an incinerator?
The public must get answers because their environment and health are at risk.