June 2, 2022

Dr. Musa Manga

Dr. Musa Manga

Musa Manga, PhD, whose postdoctoral research upended conventional wisdom about safe sanitation, adds to environmental health and engineering expertise at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. His appointment as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Gillings School’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering (ESE) on June 1 bolsters ESE’s century-long record of responding to, planning for and working to mitigate evolving water-related public health threats.

Manga’s backgrounds in environmental engineering and global health research and teaching informed his innovative postdoctoral research. His appointment as assistant professor adds to a growing team of faculty members, researchers and students dedicated to equitable water and sanitation solutions that are vital to health and well-being, both globally and locally.

“This appointment will give me an opportunity to conduct fundamental and applied research on water and sanitation that improves human health and well-being, especially in the global South and underserved communities,” said Manga. “It will enable me to build upon my research program while expanding into new areas, where the needs are critical to public health.”

Dr. Barbara Turpin

Dr. Barbara J. Turpin

According to ESE Chair Barbara Turpin, PhD, “Sustainable water and sanitation systems are increasingly important to mitigating humanitarian crises linked to climate and environmental change. Manga’s extensive experience with low-resource communities in the global South informs his global health and environmental research, enriches our students and helps to decolonize the global practice community.”

Manga’s work will also contribute to the UNC Water Institute, founded in 2010. The Water Institute hosts world water experts and fosters connections within the Research Triangle and the global water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) community to address water challenges that are local, regional or global in scale. It convenes the world’s largest gathering of WaSH professionals – fostering the type of intersectoral multi-institutional collaboration that is increasingly necessary to manage a resource that is vital to life but doesn’t respect geopolitical boundaries.

Manga’s research on fecal waste is critical to human health – diarrheal disease resulting from unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation is a leading cause of death in children worldwide. Manga specializes in tracking sources of fecal pathogens that cause disease, calculating the cost of water and sanitation systems in a holistic way, and implementing innovative technological solutions to manage waste sustainably. He looks for new ways to inactivate fecal pathogens wherever they are detected, including those from industrial sources, with considerations for cost and feasibility within the context. An early publication explored cost-effective ways to eliminate pathogens from industrial poultry waste, enabling its safe use as fertilizer. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, his recent research on the release of pathogens into the environment by various types of sanitation systems upended conventional wisdom within the field.

Manga has already made meaningful contributions to understanding and improving sanitation and fecal sludge management practices, especially in the global South. His faculty appointment strengthens Gillings’ global health expertise and builds on a long tradition of global environment and health work in ESE. (The World Health Organization’s first Environmental Health Director was from the Gillings School’s ESE program.)  Manga’s appointment positions him for a career of impact.

“The Gillings School and Department of ESE both have a long tradition of work in water, sanitation and environmental health around the world, and their reputation in this area has revived and strengthened since the formation of the Water Institute,” said Manga. “I look forward to building and strengthening the professional networks of ESE and the School in the WaSH field through research collaborations and professional communications with colleagues.”

Read more about Manga’s work.

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