Uzo Abuda Works to Bring Clean Water to Nigeria

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SEATTLE, Washington — Uzo Abuda is an African American actress with a fairly impressive filmography. She is perhaps best known for portraying Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren in Orange Is the New Black; however, she has also played such diverse roles as Glinda from The Wiz Live! and Bismuth from Steven Universe. What is often less well known is that Uzo Abuda works to bring clean water to Nigeria.

Uzo Abuda’s First Trip to Nigeria

Uzo Abuda was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. During her early years, she never thought twice about being able to access clean water by turning on a faucet. However, when she was eight years old, her parents took her to their country of origin, Nigeria, for the first time. Abuda was surprised to learn that the majority of the population had to drink from rivers that were polluted with things like human and bovine fecal matter. The family had to bring bottled water and budget how much could be consumed each day. Families who could not afford bottled water set out oil drums to catch rainwater, but usually had to resort to drinking from the local polluted river anyway.

The situation that young Uzo Abuda observed is far from unusual in Nigeria. Despite the fact that Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, around 80 percent of Nigeria’s population lacks access to clean drinking water. As a result, the vast majority of Nigeria’s population is vulnerable to waterborne illnesses, including Cholera, Hepatitis and Typhoid.

Uzo Abuda Works to Bring Clean Water to Nigeria

As an adult, Uzo Abuda works to bring clean water to Nigeria in any way she can. In 2019, she paid a personal visit to Nigeria to convince five local governors to help her. Armed with statistics that showed the plight of the locals, she went to convince the governors to spend more than $42 million to provide Nigerians with clean drinking water.
Abuda’s efforts were part of a National Geographic documentary series called Activate: The Global Citizen Movement. This six-part series showcased the work that celebrity activists in the Global Citizen Movement were doing to combat poverty and inequality and bring about a more sustainable way of life. The series  featured Abuda alongside other celebrities like Usher, Hugh Jackman and Priyanka Chopra Jones. Abuda’s episode, “Clean Water”, premiered on October 10, 2019.

Uzo Abuda’s Impact

Members of Global Citizens United have taken 145,000 actions to support this particular effort, including contacting Nigerian leaders and asking them to prioritize clean water. The episode shows that Uzo Abuda’s efforts with the Global Citizen Movement are paying off. Nigeria’s Edo State announced the first major change to end open defecation by 2025. This is a major source of contamination in rivers. It plans to do this by ensuring that everyone in Edo State has access to proper toilets and general sanitation and hygiene. One of the early steps to accomplishing this is providing clean water.
Later, at Nigeria’s Global Citizen Movement event, Cross River State promised to be the first state in the country, and in West Africa as a whole, to completely eliminate open defecation. This announcement inspired other states, such as Ondo State, to follow suit and announce its own plans to provide its citizens with clean drinking water and sanitation. The African Development bank allocated $124.2 million to Ondo State for the Urban Water Sector Reform and Akure Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Nigeria.
Uzo Abuda went to great lengths to show the world how bad sanitation is in Nigeria. Most of the Nigerian people, especially those in rural areas, lack access to clean drinking water. As a result, many of them die from preventable waterborne diseases. However, Uzo Abuda works to bring clean water to Nigeria by convincing the government to get involved. Her work is showing results.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Wikimedia

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