Clean water access vital to eliminating NTDs – NGO

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The Country Coordinator for Trachoma at Sightsavers Nigeria, Dr Teyil Wamyil-Mshelia, said access to safe drinking water and sanitation services was vital to treating and eliminating diseases such as the Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Wamyil-Mshelia said communities lacking access to safe water and sanitation were hotspots for the NTDs.

The NTDs are a diverse group of 20 conditions that are mainly prevalent in tropical areas, where they mostly affect impoverished communities and disproportionately affect women and children. Many of them are vector-borne, have animal reservoirs, and are associated with complex life cycles. All these factors make their public-health control challenging.

Some of the NTDs are Buruli ulcer, trachoma, Chagas disease, dengue, and chikungunya, dracunculiasis (Guinea-worm disease), echinococcosis, foodborne trematodiases, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), leishmaniasis, leprosy (Hansen’s disease), onchocerciasis (river blindness), rabies, scabies, snakebite envenoming.

In a press statement released by the Communications Associate of Sightsavers Nigeria, Joy Tarbo, ahead of the World Water Day, the organisation urged Nigerians to fight for access to clean water by taking action to conserve water resources, promoting sustainable water management practices, and advocating for policies that prioritise water access for all.

The PUNCH reports that World Water Day is an annual United Nations observance day held on March 22 highlighting the importance of fresh water. The day is used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources

Dr Wamyil-Mshelia was quoted as saying, “It is important that we make sure there is safe water for everyone. As well as the need for safe drinking water, sanitation services are vital to treating and eliminating diseases like the Neglected Tropical disease. We often find that areas where there is a lack of access to safe water and sanitation, are also hotspots for neglected tropical diseases we treat like Trachoma- which shows how important it is that we accelerate change in this area.”

According to the World Health Organization, over two billion people lack access to safe drinking water globally, which is a major contributor to the spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea.
In Nigeria, approximately 60 million people lack access to safe water sources, leading to numerous health challenges and impeding socio-economic development.

“Sightsavers Nigeria is committed to ensuring that all Nigerians have access to clean water by partnering with communities, governments, and other stakeholders to implement sustainable water supply and sanitation projects.

“As a stakeholder in the WASH sector, Sightsavers through its various programmes and initiatives including the Social Behaviour Change interventions under the Facial Cleanliness and Environment strategy is ensuring that governments, ministries department, and agencies prioritise the provision of safe water to areas of high need, especially in states like Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe and other states across the country where Sightsavers continues to work with governments and other stakeholders to prioritise access to safe water and sanitation,” the statement noted.

Commenting on the importance of clean water access, the Country Director for Sightsavers Nigeria, Dr Sunday Isiyaku, said, “Sustaining the gains made towards the elimination of neglected tropical diseases can only be maintained through accelerated efforts to improve access to safe water and sanitation services in these areas, this is important for the care and management of neglected tropical diseases.”

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