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WHD 2024: Experts advocate provision of clean water for improved health of Nigerians

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Health experts in Nigeria have highlighted some ways government authorities and other partners including civil societies and donor agencies can improve public health in Nigeria.

These experts are the Executive Director of C-Circle Research, a non-profit that researches environment-related public health issues, Chimere Ohajinwa; Founder of Safetity- a non-governmental organisation focused on safety and epidemic information, Bakare Lawal, and a Prevention Programme Manager at AIDs Healthcare Foundation, Adeleye Toafeek.

Chimere Ohajinwa
Chimere Ohajinwa

They spoke on Monday during an X Spaces, a live audio conversation, hosted by the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), as part of activities to mark this year’s World Health Day– a global health awareness day celebrated on 7 April every year. The celebration drives worldwide attention to global health and healthcare improvement each year.

The theme for this year’s commemoration is: “My Health, My Right.”

The conversation was moderated by the Development Editor at PREMIUM TIMES, Mojeed Alabi.

According to the experts, resolving Nigeria’s water crisis would substantially improve the nation’s healthcare challenges, particularly those that have to do with sanitation and hygiene.

Importance of water

Ms Ohajinwa said though public health has recorded some progress, it is still being challenged by many other health issues plaguing the country.

Many of these issues, she noted, are caused by the need for more portable water and sanitation in parts of the country.

She said: “It is important to address this issue. We need a clean environment and access to potable water. When we have that, public health improves. Health care is a constitutional right, and it is important to treat it as such,” she said.

“Yes, we have made some progress, but new issues are springing up in numbers, and we have to address them. If mental health issues are worsening, and the spread of other diseases is worsening, then our health goal has not been achieved.

“Life expectancy has increased, but what is the quality of life like?”

Also speaking, Mr Lawal, whose organisation focuses on safety and epidemics, said making clean water accessible to the public requires acceleration, especially across rural areas.

He said: “Access to clean water and good sanitation would have been able to resolve some of the issues triggered by it, such as dirt and pollution.

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“Nigeria could also build an effective programme that allows you to treat water properly and fluoridate to allow it to have the appropriate quantity of minerals.”

Water statistics

Data from the Nigerian Institute of Water Engineers (NIWE) shows that about 179 million people in the country lack access to safely managed drinking water services. This implies that about 25 per cent of the country’s population relies on other sources of water which may not be categorised as safe.

The data further shows that out of every 100 persons, 25 get their water from open streams and ponds.

Infectious diseases

Speaking further, Mr Bakare called for controlling infectious diseases in the country to improve health care.

According to him, the control of an epidemic such as HIV/AIDs does not translate to a reduction in the spread of transmissible illnesses across the country.

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“When it comes to communicable diseases, eradicating one does not mean you have eradicated the other. You can’t suppress one and expect that the other is simply eradicated,” he stated.

He said the implementation of multiple eradication programmes that aim to improve the environment and living conditions for all can ensure the eradication of these diseases.

Bakare Lawal
Bakare Lawal

“We must protect citizens’ rights, including healthcare. This way, we will be able to refine our programmes to suit most people.

“According to public health law, health-related institutions have the duty to protect us from infectious diseases. And as we try to remain less exposed, the country needs to put in place the right responses and mechanisms to prevent the spread of communicable disease already in the country,” he said.

On HIV/AIDs

In his contributions, Mr Adeleye of AIDs Healthcare Foundation, said medical professionals have begun to explore more effective ways to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs in the country.

According to him, with the existence of antiretroviral drugs, there’s been a shift in the mode of action targeted toward suppressing the spread of the disease.”

He said: “In the past, when President Obasanjo was in power, there’s an effort to raise awareness among the people through handbills, billboards, among other channels. And that was when we didn’t have drugs to control the disease.

“But as time went on, we had the anti-retroviral drugs, which led to a shift in our mode of action. There’s a deliberate shift in the prevention of HIV. There are efforts to promote behavioural change that prevents the spread of HIV/AID”.

Taofeek Adeleye
Taofeek Adeleye

He, therefore, called on stakeholders to increase awareness around the issues of prevention and treatment, saying the campaign cannot be abandoned at this time.

“The fact that we do not see those pictures of skeletons on our screens warning us against HIV/AIDs does not mean that the disease has been suppressed. It is still raging and we must step up the campaign,” he said.

READ ALSO: UNAIDS to reduce AIDS-related deaths to 250,000 by 2025 – Report

WHO’s take on HIV/AIDS

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its message on Sunday to mark the 2024 World Health Day, said though the HIV epidemic in Africa isn’t raging as fiercely as before, transmission is still prevalent.

According to the global body, the continent’s HIV-positive population increased from 15.6 million in 2005 to 24.3 million in 2021, accounting for 3.4 per cent of the total population.

This was disclosed by the global body’s Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, who said the data reflects the continued transmission of HIV despite reductions in the incidents of people newly infected.

CJID pledges further collaborations

The CJID’s Director of Programmes, Akintunde Babatunde, while thanking the guests and the participants pledged the commitment of the organisation to advancing the conversation on safe health and improved social services in Nigeria and Africa.

Mr Akintunde said the organisation will continue to partner with individuals and organisations- both governmental and non-governmental, in its efforts towards championing campaigns for transparency and accountability in the governance structure on the continent of Africa and beyond.

He was corroborated by the organisation’s Project Officer for Health, Adebowale Adedigba, who thanked the experts for joining the conversations “even at short notice.”

CJID X space
CJID X space


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