Monday, January 17, 2011

One Disease Down In Africa, A Lot More To Go

One of the most exciting health-related achievements in Africa in recent times has been the development of new Meningitis vaccine that has the potential to eradicate devastating epidemics in Africa's Meningitis belt. At the opening of the annual WHO Executive Board Meeting, Margaret Chan, the Director General of WHO represented this fact. She mentioned the contribution of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in funding the research and praised the African scientists and scholars who helped develop this life-saving vaccine when large pharmaceutical companies backed off because the project would not result in big profits. This low cost vaccine was produced in less than a decade which is a rare incident in the African region. Some of the countries including, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger already started using the vaccine but many of them will not be able to use it due to lack of funds, said Chan.

The lack of funds is also delaying the progress of other vaccines including, AIDS, Diarrhoea, Pneumonia and Tuberculosis which have the ability to claim thousands of lives in Africa each year. Chan calls for serious attention toward this issue and comments that governments and large corporations need to invest more in the development of life-saving vaccines in order to change the health scenario of the African continent.

-Nisha Noor