African governments need to commit to research
At the closing of the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) scientific conference in Durban, South Africa, Olumide Ogundahunsi from TDR gave a plenary talk on the history of the organization, and the need for African governments and national control programmes to become more involved and supportive of research. The 14-year old organization, which TDR helped to found, is now looking at evolving into a scientific society that can better support malaria research in Africa.
Dr Ogundahunsi talked about the problems that still exist in Africa:
- Limited human resources
- Lack of infrastructure
- Funding disparities
- Limited access to technology
- Limited interactions between research and control communities
- Inadequate mentoring of young researchers
He said it is not enough to prove that a strategy or an intervention works (often in a controlled setting). Speaking to the more than 1200 meeting participants, he said, “In the real life context, there are multiple factors ranging from the quality and structure of the health system, to culture, the political, and the socio economic issues that impact on our ability to effectively implement or scale up for impact.”
He said the next generation of malaria researchers in Africa must be able to better address this gap and noted the limited national efforts to build capacity in this area. He cited little funding for post doctoral research training, operational research within programmes or innovative product research and development.
“In the real life context, there are multiple factors ranging from the quality and structure of the health system, to culture, the political, and the socio economic issues that impact on our ability to effectively implement or scale up for impact. The next generation of malaria researchers in Africa must be able to better address this gap.”
Dr Olumide Ogundahunsi, TDR scientist
Dr Ogundahunsi called on meeting participants to convince African political leaders and governments to invest in research and capacity building, and to help African billionaires understand the value of supporting this field. He also made a specific appeal to the senior, established African scientists to mentor the next generation, to help them in these new challenges.
MIM is undergoing a review of its organization and investigating the possibility of becoming a professional society that can better meet the needs of African scientists. Dr Ogundahunsi ended his talk by reinforcing the need for a society like this, and explained that TDR will be working with the MIM board to further explore this.
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