Date Published: 7 October 2006

Schistosomiasis researcher honoured by Niger for improving health of poor

Health News from London, England.

A gold medal for Service to Health in Niger has been awarded to Alan Fenwick , Imperial's Professor of Tropical Parasitology, by the African country's Ministry of Health. The medal, which recognises the work of Professor Fenwick in improving the health of the poor in Niger, was presented to him on 29 September by the Minister of Health, the Honourable Mahamane Kabaou.

Professor Fenwick is Director of the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, which aims to assist countries in sub Saharan Africa to control the parasitic disease schistosomiasis and intestinal worm infections. He received his medal, the Ministry of Health's highest honour, at the opening of a new laboratory and office space for neglected tropical disease programmes in Niger.

Professor Fenwick said:

" This award reflects the high regard which the Minister of Health holds for the support that Niger has received from the SCI to assist them in controlling these diseases. I was very moved, particularly when I heard that this award was endorsed at Presidential level."

Professor Fenwick and the Minister of Health officially opened the new laboratory space in the presence of several international, government and NGO representatives. The new laboratory, offices and conference room will enable neglected disease control programmes to access modern laboratory space and materials. The space was funded by the Ministry of Health and a grant to the SCI from the Gates Foundation.

At the opening, Professor Fenwick presented the Minister of Health with keys to a new Toyota Hilux and 17 motorcycles for Niger's National Schistosomiasis and Soil Transmitted Helminth Control Programme (PNLBG), to support delivery of drugs to rural areas. These vehicles have been provided by the SCI.

Discussing the success of the tropical disease programmes in Niger, Professor Fenwick said:

" 4 million people have been treated in two years in Niger, thanks to all the hard work that has gone into Niger's PNLBG programme. I am really pleased at the rapid benefits we have seen in terms of reaching the poorest of the poor and improving the quality of life for the larger population of Niger."

" This achievement is a result of the collaboration between the SCI and the ministries of health and education. However, we cannot be complacent and we need to make sure we can guarantee sustainability for such disease control programmes," he added.

The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative was established in 2002 to tackle schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa, where infected people are unable to afford the drugs needed for treatment. It is supported by a 30 million dollar grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Schistosomiasis can be treated with a single dose of an inexpensive and effective medicine called praziquantel.


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