Unlocking the Power of One Health Partnership for Curbing Health-Related Risks from Akaki Watershed in Ethiopia
This post was written by Yonas Tafesse, communications consultant, International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Ethiopia; Professor Mulugeta Kibret, scientist at Bahir Dar University; and Dr. Alemseged Haile, senior researcher, IWMI Ethiopia.
IWMI and Ethiopia’s National One Health partners have underscored that concerned stakeholders should come together to tackle the human health risks that are caused by microbial pollution from the Akaki watershed in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. This was heralded on the second knowledge co-creation workshop organized by IWMI in Addis Ababa recently.
Speaking at the workshop, Dr. Javier Mateo-Sagasta, a senior researcher and One Health project lead with IWMI said: “Addressing water-related health challenges of Addis Ababa requires collaboration and integration across disciplines and sectors.” He added that IWMI contributes to national efforts aimed at recognizing the role of water in the transmission and spread of antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) pathogens and achieving One Health objectives by conducting research, generating knowledge and advocating for evidence-based decision-making for policymakers.
The workshop was organized to initiate a knowledge co-creation process of water quality monitoring and modelling (WQMM) in the Akaki Watershed of Addis Ababa. It was made a reality under the flagship of the CGIAR Initiative on One Health and funded by the CGIAR Trust Fund. The initiative aims to mitigate zoonotic disease outbreaks, improve food and water safety, and reduce the impacts of antimicrobial resistance to benefit humans, animals and the environment.
Knowledge sharing for realizing better health outcomes
Attended by 35 participants from national, regional and international organizations, the workshop featured insightful research presentations, live discussions and knowledge co-creation exercises.
Existing evidence reveals that water is a primary vector in the spread of AMR bacteria and zoonotic diseases in countries lacking universal wastewater treatment and access to clean water and sanitation. In addition, river water and wastewater discharged to the environment are conduits for the spread of AMR pathogens and antibiotic-resistant genes (ARGs) in Ethiopia.
Professor Mulugeta Kibret, a scientist from Bahir Dar University, also pointed out that pollutants including AMR bacteria are entering receiving waters that could have a considerable impact on the health of downstream communities in Addis Ababa and urged the need for water quality monitoring and pollution mitigation in the city.
“The quality of the Akaki River water is extremely bad because of anthropogenic contaminants and people will be exposed to diseases if they use it for washing and drinking purposes,” confirms Mr. Mulatu Wesenu, senior expert of environmental pollution study with the Addis Ababa Environmental Protection Authority. He added that his organization has been supporting IWMI’s initiative on Akaki River WQMM for the fight against the transmission of zoonotic diseases starting from 2019 under the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub until now, despite some challenges.
Workshop participants also commended IWMI’s efforts on water quality monitoring and underlined that lack of skilled and specialized expertise, unavailability of laboratory facilities, lack of real-time data on water quality monitoring and shortage of finance, among others, are constraining them from mainstreaming the good practices in their regular plans and outscoring the exemplary practices to their project sites.
Strengthening partnership for co-designing water quality modelling approach
IWMI and key stakeholders also heralded that they are developing a watershed modelling approach to analyze loads, fate, transport and human exposure to microbiological pollutants through water flow pathways with the intent of narrowing down data and knowledge gaps regarding harmful bacteria and AMR modelling for water pollution control authorities and watershed planners in the country.
Dr. Goraw Goshu, water quality modelling consultant with IWMI, asserted that the watershed modelling approach is under formulation by taking into consideration the prediction of concentrations and fluxes of selected zoonotic pathogens, as well as associated AMR strains, under different flow regimes and pollution mitigation scenarios.
Workshop participants commented that the modelling approach needs to include molecular data and nutrient and organic loads as additional data inputs, as well as take into consideration issues like waste management, riverbank development, antibiotics usage, open defecation and others as extra scenarios for exploration.
Workshop delegates further underscored that concerted efforts should be exerted to ensure recognition of the role of water in the transmission of AMR pathogens by the National One Health Steering Committee and Regional AMR Advisory Groups through the active involvement of the water champions, which enjoy the full support of IWMI since 2022.
Dr. Alemseged Haile, senior researcher with IWMI Ethiopia said: “IWMI shall continue the knowledge co-creation and experience-sharing practices on Akaki WQMM efforts, as well as on stakeholder engagement initiatives for inclusion of the water agenda in the national One Health planning processes together with key partners.”
For more information, please reach out to Dr. Javier Mateo-Sagasta, senior researcher and One Health project lead with IWMI, at [email protected] and Dr. Alemseged Haile, senior researcher with IWMI Ethiopia, at [email protected].