University of South Florida


Controlling water-linked diseases in Africa

USF College of Public Health professor Dr. Ricardo Izurieta, a specialist in water- and vector-borne diseases and director of the college’s global communicable diseases program, spoke recently at a conference focused on water, environment and food safety.

Izurieta was invited to speak at the Second African Conference for Health Harm Reduction by Dr. Khalid Ait Taleb, the health and social protection minister of Morocco. The event was held in Marrakech, Morocco, in September.

people on stage at African Union Conference

                        Ricardo Izurieta, MD, PhD, pictured at top left, speaking at the Second African Conference in September. (Photo                                                                                                     courtesy of Izurieta)

Water-linked infectious diseases, says Izurieta, include waterborne diseases (e.g., E. coli, shigellosis, cholera); water-washed diseases (e.g., trachoma); water-related aquatic vector-borne diseases (e.g., schistosomiasis, guinea-worm disease); water-related air vector-borne diseases (e.g., dengue, malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus); and water-penetrating diseases (e.g., leptospirosis). 

Under this classification, Izurieta reports, more that 90% of infectious diseases in developing countries are linked to water. 

 “We can defeat these diseases if we intervene,” Izurieta said.

The event highlighted the relevance and effective means of enhancing health determinants from the perspective of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the aspirations of the Agenda 2063. 

The African Union Agenda 2063, adopted about 10 years ago, is Africa’s framework for how it wants to develop over the next several decades. Sustainable Development Goals include things like clean water and sanitation, affordable energy and other development goals.

hands being splashed with water

                                                                                               Photo source: Canva

According to Izurieta, one of the main takeaways from the conference was the importance of creating a one-health approach to developing clean water supplies for both health and food safety.

“One of the main points brought up was that policy makers and scientists can significantly step forward in addressing the critical issues surrounding health harm reduction in Africa and the South-South regions,” Izurieta said. “As public health interventionists, we should not only assess the phenomena of water and health and their causal relationship, but also develop critical technologies for water and sanitation to control these water-linked diseases.”

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