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Clean water is fundamental to human health – former Minister of Power

The former Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, says clean and abundant freshwater is fundamental and necessary to human health in every country.
Nebo, the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the University on the Niger, Anambra, who was the Chairman of the occasion, made the remark in Nsukka on Friday during the 3rd International Conference on Water in Africa (ICWA).
It was organised by the Water and Public Health Research Group (WPHRG), University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), with the theme “Water and the Sustainable Development Goals: Exploring Indigenous Approaches in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
He described as appropriate the aim of the conference to train participants in communities on deploying evidence-based microbiology and water-testing kits as educational tools that demonstrate best practices for identifying safe drinking water.
“I am happy that this conference is bringing together researchers in academia and industry as well as policymakers to interrogate the latest trends in water utilisation, research, and management.
“Clean and abundant freshwater is fundamental to human health,” he said.
Nebo, who is also a former VC of the UNN, urged participants and the host community, the University of Nigeria, to embrace the unique opportunity provided by the ICWA 2024 by participating actively in the conference.
Prof. Robert Metcalf, Emeritus Professor at California State University, stressed in a virtual keynote address the importance of safe water to human health.
He attributed open defecation to other causes of water pollution common in developing countries.
“The presence of E. coli indicates physical contamination, raising the possibility that disease-causing microbes may be in the water.
“Water quality monitoring is often a missing factor in programmes to improve access to safe drinking water in low-income countries, despite its importance from a public health standpoint.
“This is because standard tests using multiple-tube fermentation or membrane filtration require specialized equipment and training to carry out.
“In addition, the linkage between water quality and disease is commonly not appreciated at the community and household level,” he said.
The water expert noted that public health problems in urban areas were a result of water supplies being intermittently polluted.
“Rural areas often lack public support for providing and maintaining improved, safe water sources.
“Water quality testing must be a component where drinking water is involved. For low-income countries with limited resources, it is recommended they establish realistic, achievable standards,” he said.
In a remark, Prof Charles Igwe, the Vice-chancellor of UNN, represented by Prof. Romanus Ezeokonkwo, Deputy Vice-chancellor, Administration, said that the importance of improving water and sanitation practices cannot be overstated in boosting human health.
“I commend the organizers of this conference, that brings together experts, researchers, and stakeholders in water to exchange knowledge and collaborate on solutions to solving problems of mankind.
“As VC, I  am committed to supporting initiatives that promote sustainable developments that address global challenges.
“I am excited that you have gathered a lot at this citadel of learning to explore the indigenous approaches in Africa that enable people to have access to clean and fresh water,” he said
Earlier, Prof. Vincent Chigor, the Coordinator of WPHRG and Executive Director of ‘Our Water and Health Network Africa (OWHN) Africa’, revealed that the ICWA was established in 2022 to address water challenges in sub-Saharan Africa.
Chigor explained that in the next 10 years, there will be a need to mobilize, motivate, and move stakeholders to explore the prime place of water towards the successful delivery of United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Africa,” he said.
The convener disclosed that the conference on water was supported by the International Water and Health Alliances.
He noted that globally, water is both a crucial resource and a major challenge, as its quality and availability constitute powerful determinants of sustainable health, economic growth, and social development.
“WPHRG was established in 2013 as a trans-faculty research team that seeks to study water, public health and development through multidisciplinary approaches.
“It is also to develop capacity and contribute in advancing knowledge in water, environment and public health, as well as help to provide safe water to communities and marginalized groups in sub-Saharan African countries.
“The research group collaborates with relevant organisations and institutions in response to various water-related challenges and frontiers,” he said.
According to Chigor, WPHRG research areas include water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), aquatic environments, health and One Health, water governance, resource management, water and food security, climate change, water education, literacy, and awareness, among others.
A stage-play on the dangers and adverse effects of polluted water was performed by students. It was directed by Dr. Ikechukwu Erojikwe, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, UNN.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that over 115 participants took part physically and virtually within and outside the country in the conference.
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