From Felix Ikem, Nsukka
The former Minister of Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo has said that clean and abundant freshwater is fundamental to human health in every country.
Nebo the Vice-Chancellor of the University on the Niger said this in Nsukka on Friday during the opening ceremony of the 3rd International Conference On Water In Africa (ICWA) organized 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 conference aimed at equipping participants to train communities on deploying evidence-based Microbiology and water-testing kits as educational tools that demonstrate best practices for identifying safe drinking water.
“I’m happy that this conference is bringing together researchers in academia and industry as well as policymakers to interrogate the latest trends in water utilization, research, and management.
Clean and abundant freshwater, sanitation, and hygiene are crucial to human health and well-being globally,” he said.
Nebo who is also the former VC of UNN and the chairman of the conference, urged participants and the host community, the University of Nigeria, to embrace the unique opportunity provided by the ICWA 2024 by participating actively.
Prof. Robert Metcalf, Emeritus Professor at California State University, who virtually in a Keynote address expressed the importance of safe water to human health and attributed among other causes of water pollution to open defecation, which he said is common among developing countries.
“The presence of E. coil indicates physical contamination, raising the possibility that diseases causing microbes may be in the water.
“Water quality monitoring is often a missing factor in programs 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 and are not easily adapted to field testing.
“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 arise in urban areas as a result of water supplies being intermittent or if coagulant/disinfectant supplies are missing.
“Rural areas often lack public support for providing and maintaining improved 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, interim 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 organizers of this conference that brings together experts, researchers, and stakeholders to exchange knowledge and collaborate on solutions to solving problems of mankind.
As VC, I  am deeply committed to supporting initiatives that promote sustainable development and address global challenges,
“I  am excited that you have gathered at this citadel of learning to explore the indigenous approaches in Africa. It is my honour to declare this third edition of the International Conference on Water in Africa open,” he said
In his address, Prof. Vincent Chigor, the Coordinator of WPHRG and the 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.
He said for the first ten years, the conference has the goal of mobilizing, motivating, and moving 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 explained that the conference on water was supported by 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,
“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 Africa countries.
“The research group collaborates with relevant organizations and institutions in response to various water-related challenges and frontiers, “he said.
According to Chigor, WPHRG research focus areas include Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), Aquatic environments, health and One Health, Water governance and resource management, Risk, vulnerability and resilience assessments, Water and food security and 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 and was directed by Dr. Ikechukwu Erojikwe, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies, UNN.
Our reporter gathered that over 115 participants participated in the conference physically and virtually within and outside the country.