Staff honoured by African Academy of Sciences
Dr Francisca Mutapi has been elected as a Fellow of the African Academy of Science. The award has been made in honour of her significant contribution to global health research, and her specific focus on improving child health in Zimbabwe.
Dr Mutapi is a lead contributor to Zimbabwe’s National Control programme to tackle Bilharzia – known as snail fever – which has led to the treatment of more than five million pre-school children each year.
Following her undergraduate degree at the University of Zimbabwe, Dr Mutapi studied for her PhD in the neglected tropical disease at the University of Oxford.
For over 20 years, she has conducted field studies in Africa, together with laboratory studies in the UK, working mainly on schistosomiasis – commonly known as bilharzia or snail fever.
Her focus on snail fever, which is caused by a water-borne parasite, led her to establish a collaborative research programme, ‘The Understanding Bilharzia Program’ with colleagues in in Zimbabwe aimed at tackling the infection in children.
The collaborative group found that up to 100 per cent of children aged between 9 and 11 years old were infected in some parts of the country.
She also proved that the guideline to treat only those over the age of five was based on a poor evidence base. This finding is now opening up treatment for more than 50 million pre-school children across the continent.
The Zimbabwean government worked the partners in the Understanding Bilharzia Programme, and Dr Mutapi to formulate the country’s policy on controlling worms and to implement first national worm control programme.
WOMEN IN STEM
Dr Mutapi says that one of her key aims within the African Academy of Sciences is to raise the profile of African women in scientific careers.
Through training, communication and mentoring support, the Academy aims to provide an enabling culture for women in the areas of science, technology, medicine and engineering.
She also hopes to shed light on African nations’ commitment to scientific research, and to keep governments accountable on their pledge to dedicate 1 per cent of GDP to research and development activities.
The Academy of Sciences is not just a name. Our dream is to have a research agenda for Africa that is driven by Africans, for African problems. It has got to be sustainable, home grown and relevant
The African Academy of Sciences delivers training in all areas of scientific research across Africa, including research management, scientific techniques and grant writing.
Its Excellence in Science programme offers funding of around 70m USD.
Last year, it provided its first round of funding for African-centric problems including research into tuberculosis, HIV and Mental Health
It also supports capacity building to help expand opportunities for further research and development.
Dr Francisca Mutapi