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Malawi Environmental Health Association (MEHA)

This Spotlight article is from Young Samanyika, President of the Malawi Environmental Health Association (MEHA) and is a reflection of the 2nd All Africa Environmental Health Conference which took place in Malawi, the warm heart of Africa, last year. The conference was a resounding success and all credit to the small band of volunteers who made this possible

Malawi, an African  State in the Sub Saharan region, was the second country to host the All Africa Environmental Health Congress from 24th to 28th May last year (2010) in Lilongwe, the capital city. Malawi lies on a land area of about 94,084  square kilometers of which one third is covered by beautiful Lake Malawi. According to  the  2008 housing and population census it was established that the country has a population of about 13 million people.

The general feeling of the organizing committee with sentiments from other people who participated was that the conference was a success. Though this is the case, there is always room for improvement. This is especially important when there are plans to conduct similar or bigger events in future. As a matter of fact, MEHA and its local partners are contemplating a bid to host the 2016  World Environmental Health  Conference. MEHA do realize that this is a very big undertaking but it is in its view basing on the previous event that the benefits of such a task outweigh the trouble of organizing it. It is for this reason that the desire for bidding to host of the biggest Environmental Health event in the world grows stronger and stronger.

The hosting of the 2nd All Africa Environmental Health  Conference has made Malawi and MEHA known to the rest of  our African counterparts and has formed a basis for regional collaboration and networking. It is now easy to establish relationships and share experiences with fellow Environmental Health Associations in the African region. It was also exciting for EHOs from different countries to come together and talk about Environmental Health pertaining to their respective countries on the side lines.  The profile of Environmental Health within Malawi is even higher than before. Environmental Health has now changed from being considered as a nonentity to one of the recognized professions in the country. Above all it is pleasing for MEHA to be able to embark on two projects and these are accreditation Environmental Health programmes in the Environmental Health teaching institutions and introduction of practical training of the Environmental Health graduates before they start practicing. This will be done using the conference proceeds. All these could not have been possible without taking the trouble of organizing the conference. It is the hope of MEHA that more can be achieved by taking the next step of hosting the world congress. Given adequate support like exposure to such forums, MEHA can do it.

The Conference was organized by Malawi Environmental Health Association (MEHA) in  conjunction with The Malawi Polytechnic.   MEHA is a body that has been re-activated some three years ago with the aim of guiding environmental  health  profession issues in Malawi. The Environmental Health profession in Malawi has three cadres. The first cadre is of Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) which is trained at the The Polytechnic, a constituent College of the University of Malawi. This cadre graduate with Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health. The next cadre is that of Assistant Environmental Health Officers (AEHOs). This cadre is trained at Malawi College of Health Sciences and students graduate with diplomas in Environmental Health. The third and last cadre is that of Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs). This cadre is trained while in service and work under the supervision of AEHOs. The HSAs  are deployed right in the communities where they work and live with the people.

This,therefore, means that all these three cadres are eligible members of the MEHA. So far about one hundred members have already registered with a fee. It is expected that all EHOs who are over 300 in the country, all AEHOs who are about 150 in country and about half of the HSAs who are about 11,000 in the county will be members of MEHA.

Currently, MEHA has basically two operational structures which are the executive committee headed by the President and district chapters (committees). However due to projects that we are about to embark, a subcommittee on Education will be formed to be running CPD, accreditation matters and looking over practical training.  

Malawi Environmental Health Association (MEHA)