By Chukwuemeka Chimerue

ABUJA— FORMER Minister for Education and presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, in the 2019 general elections, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, and former Minister for Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, are among top dignitaries billed to present papers at the upcoming 2019 Annual National Asthma Conference.

The Conference themed “Better Breathing, Better Living: The Role of the Environment and Governance”, is being organized by the Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation, ACUF, and scheduled to hold on Thursday, 18th July, 2019 at Oaklands Hotel in Enugu, Nigeria.

Apart from Mrs. Ezekwesili and Prof. Chukwu, who also doubles as chairman of the conference, other experts such as renowned public policy expert, Prof. Tunji Olaopa, a consultant public health physician, Prof. Benjamin Uzochukwu, consultant respiratory and chest physician, Prof. Gregory Efosa Emerhbor, an administrator and health professional, Prof. Rowland Ndoma-Egba, among other national and international experts are scheduled to speak at the event.

The Board Chairman of the Amaka Chiwuike Uba Foundation (ACUF), Dr Chiwuike Uba, has said that the annual national asthma conference would serve as an avenue “to throw more light on the role of the environment and governance on management of respiratory diseases; especially, asthma.”

In a statement to the media in Abuja, Uba said that the conference is so important, in view of people dying daily from air pollution-related diseases, including asthma complications and that “the conference is expected to X-ray the linkages between the environment and governance and its impacts on health management as well as make policy recommendations on ways to ‘deal’ with the identified challenges.”

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He revealed that the theme of the conference, “Better Breathing, Better Living: The Role of the Environment and Governance” is unique and coming at the right time, because “we are faced with challenges ranging from being rated as one the most polluted countries in the world to a country grappling with a lot of problems associated with other governance issues.”

He noted that “according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), air pollution is responsible for more than 12million deaths per year. The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets —SDG 3 (Good health and well-being), SDG 6 (Clean water and Sanitation), SDG 7 (Affordable clean energy), SDG 13 (Climate action), SDG 14 (Life below water) and SDG 16 (Peace, Security and Strong Institutions) is dependent on the environment and governance outcomes.”

“The Annual Conference is a platform to discuss national issues, especially health and related matters in an evidenced-based approach. The workshop provides policy alternatives and action plan on how to solve the identified challenges, because most diseases are associated with environmental and governance issues.

“Therefore, the 2019 conference will look at issues related to our environmental governance and other governance issues, as they affect the health management in Nigeria. Governance is core to a sustainable environment and development. We recognise that Nigeria’s economy will be improved if the environment provides better breathing and people live a healthy life with a guaranteed access to quality and affordable health care. So, for a conference of this nature, you need people who have passion and genuinely working for the progress, prosperity and renaissance of our dear country, Nigeria,” he said.

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Uba further revealed that collaborators like Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Nigerian Thoracic Society (NTS), the Knowledge and Policy Management Initiative (KAPOMI) and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Alliance, Nigeria are partners in the conference, even as he said that the choice of keynote and experts for the conference is “based on their passion for good governance, inclusiveness, access to quality and affordable healthcare and their expertise in the areas they would be speaking on.”

He named some of the key speakers at the Conference to include Nigeria’s former Minister for Health – Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu who will be the chairman of the Conference; Dr. Oby Ezekwesili –the former World Bank Vice-President and Nigeria’s former Education Minister and presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) in the 2019 general elections; renowned public policy expert, Prof. Tunji Olaopa, Consultant Public Health Physician, Prof. Benjamin Uzochukwu, Consultant Respiratory and Chest Physician, Prof. Gregory Efosa Emerhbor, administrator and health professional, Prof. Rowland Ndoma-Egba, Ademola H. Adigun, Dr. Adaeze Ayuk, Dr. Ifediora Amobi, Larry Oguego, among other national and international experts.

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Dr. Uba also called for partnership to develop more strategic sources of funding in order to ensure sustainable long-term programming and improve the quality of life of people.

“Painfully, we are unable to do all that we propose to do; as a result of financial challenges. It is our hope that people will begin to support the Foundation financially by making donations and getting involved in fund raising for ACUF. We indeed need financial support,” he stated.

He thanked those who have provided some support to the Foundation. “We also wish to appreciate individuals and some corporate organisations that have provided one form of support or the other to the Foundation for the Conference; especially, Oaklands Hotel & Amusement Park, and Little Lung Africa (LLA),” he said.

ACUF was founded in 2016, in memory of Mrs Amaka Uba, who died of asthma complications in 2016 with the vision of a society with better breathing, better living, and a happier, united and prosperous people. In achieving its mission of improving the quality of life of the people, it carries out its objectives through facilitation of evidence-based socio-economic research, policy dialogues/advocacy, training and education and networking.

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