It is always an honour and a pleasure for me to join Pastor Lincoln Hazell and his congregation at the Apostolic Faith Church Sanitation Workers’ Appreciation Day.
The popularity and longevity of this annual event, which is in its 17th year, speak to the necessity of having a dedicated cadre of sanitation workers to perform the essential work of handling and disposing of our garbage and preventing the worst-case scenario of having serious outbreaks of infectious diseases linked to contaminated water and poor sanitation.
The people of the Bahamas, particularly across Abaco and Grand Bahama, are trying to avoid such a worst-case scenario as they attempt to pick up the pieces of their lives after Hurricane Dorian.
Dorian – in the words of Prime Minister Minnis – “has left generational devastation” in parts of the country.
It becomes apparent that sanitation plays a pivotal role in our daily lives – and without proper sanitation, our economy, our healthcare system and the way of life we take for granted would be jeopardized.
In recognition of this, the theme for Sanitation Workers Appreciation Day 2019 is Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it.
As I said in my message for the Appreciation Day commemorative booklet, the Appreciation Day is a commendable effort that encourages us to imagine a scenario in which our small island state lacks basic sanitation services.
Imagine for a minute that we did not have the exceptional services of the dedicated employees at the Parks and Beaches Unit, Public and Environmental Health, Public Works, the Solid Waste Management Corporation, the Water Department and other related agencies.
Such a scenario would lead to serious outbreaks of infectious diseases linked to contaminated water and poor sanitation. Our population would have a much shorter lifespan than the current average life expectancy of 75. Poor sanitation would also harm our nation’s productivity and the economy, particularly the tourism industry. There would be piles of garbage on the streets and a persistent stench in the air, resulting in anxiety, depression and stress for citizens and residents. You get the picture.
I take this opportunity to issue a challenge to our dedicated cadre of workers in Public and Environmental Health, Public Works, the Water Department and their partner agencies.
This challenge is tied closely to the Scripture verse (Ecclesiastes 11:8) that Pastor Lincoln Hazell is highlighting on this Sanitation Workers Appreciation Day. The verse reminds us that we should not take a single thing for granted. The Message Bible version reads: “Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour, remembering that there will also be many dark days and that most of what comes your way is smoke.”
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we see that the vanity of human endeavour is the main theme.
Ecclesiastes Chapter 1, at verses 2 to 4, reads:
All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
So my challenge to our hardworking sanitation workers – and indeed to all of us – is to not take anything for granted.
Yes, we have achieved a lot as a people and as a country in healthcare, in education, public infrastructure, fiscal management – and as we celebrate our 36th Independence Anniversary this month, this should be one of the foremost things in our collective mind’s eye – but the challenge for us is to always be prepared.
I therefore challenge all of our essential workers in sanitation and public health, in national security, in emergency management, etc. to keep assessing sanitation and health risks, as well as fine-tuning your preparation and response planning, using recent news events as case studies. I encourage you all to implement and take part in regular hurricane worst-case scenario training and employ all efforts to ensure that when a crisis hits you can be as ready as you can.
Our Attorney General, the Hon. Vincent Byron is the Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial National Emergency Operations Committee and Cabinet’s Representative to NEMA for the Hurricane Season, and he has been apprising the Cabinet of important work on the emergency management front.
My Cabinet and I take the safety and security of our citizens and residents seriously – and with the keenest sense of urgency – and we urge every able-bodied person to avoid complacency and begin now to make their best efforts to mitigate the exposure to loss of life and damage to property.
This Sanitation Workers Appreciation Day and every day, we thank all members of the sanitation profession for safeguarding the health of our nation and for providing services that are as essential to our way of life as the very air we breathe. We have an excellent reputation as a clean destination and each of us must maintain it by keeping our homes, yards, neighbourhoods and country clean. Stop littering. Beautify our environment.
We join with you and your families in celebrating the 17th Annual Sanitation Workers Appreciation Day; I pray that God blesses all of you richly for all that you do. May God also bless the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. May He protect us all from harm: harm to ourselves by our own actions, harm to us by others, harm to us from the ravages of nature.
Let us treat nature with the respect, care and consideration that it deserves and let us do what we can to make our planet earth a better, safer, cleaner and healthier place.
God Bless Us All.