By Mike Ssegawa
ARUSHA. Two top medics in East Africa walked into the hall at Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha.
They met a lady, Norah Owaraga, the managing director of CPAR Uganda, who had gone ahead of them to ensure everything needed for the gathering of about 200 scientists, doctors, researchers, policy makers and civil society, at this university were all in place.
They hugged and talked about challenges facing East Africa if tuberculosis was not well managed, and what can be done to reverse the burden.
All three East African countries are among the 22 TB high burden countries, according to the World Health organization.
The hall at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, was the ideal place for such a meeting as the bulk of students here are science post graduate students.
The youthful doctors enthusiastically exchanged ideas on how this regional approach to health research was a giant step into the right direction. It would help translate research into policy and practice.
Dr Wilber Sabiiti, the lead researcher for TWENDE, is a Uganda born senior research fellow in medicine at the prestigious University of St Andrews in the UK. The other doctor was Nyanda Elias Ntinginya, the senior research scientist and head of TB and emerging diseases based at Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research in Mbeya.
Dr Sabiiti said they are in Arusha to launch a health project with far reaching impact on the East African region. The project is Tuberculosis: Working to Empower Nations Diagnostic Efforts (TWENDE). And he is the lead researcher for the project.
At the end of the two year project cycle, Sabiiti says, “TWENDE would have strengthened research collaborations within the East African Community.”
Dr Nyanda on the hand underscored the fact that “diseases know no borders”.
He says, “This is a call to work together, pull our arsenals and fight TB as a region.”
Nyanda says the World Health organization has a target to eliminate TB by 2035. However, there’s need to work with practitioners in related diseases such HIV/Aids and diabetes.
“If we are to fight TB, we must eliminate HIV/Aids as well,” says Nyanda who is also the Tanzanian principal investigator for TWENDE.
TWENDE therefore, according to Nyanda, is a platform that brings together medics, government, researchers, civic society, media among others to find pathways that will enable them eliminate the disease.
Like Dr Sabiiti says, “we are living in a new era, and research has changed a lot.” Therefore, TWENDE is a way to bring research out of laboratories to the communities who feel the burden of the disease. #TWENDE is