Reducing child deaths in Africa

2016-08-02 06:00
Dr Ombeva Malande from Kenya, founded a partnership with the University of Cape Town that aims to address the prevention and control of vaccine preventable diseases and cancers across Africa.

Dr Ombeva Malande from Kenya, founded a partnership with the University of Cape Town that aims to address the prevention and control of vaccine preventable diseases and cancers across Africa.

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A partnership at the University of Cape Town (UCT) is making its mark across the continent to improve health.

Several doctors from the African Paediatric Fellowship Programme (APFP), run by UCT, have come together from all over the continent to form the East Africa Centre for Vaccines and Immunisation (Ecavi).

Founded by Dr Ombeva Malande from Kenya, the partnership aims to address prevention and control of vaccine preventable diseases and cancers by focusing on advocacy, training, research and the strengthening of health facilities across the Eastern Africa region.

The APFP is a unique research and teaching programme focused on expanding paediatric medical skills across the continent to improve child healthcare. It was established in the department of Paediatrics and Child Health at UCT and offers all the required resources and a rich learning environment for successful fellowship training. Fellows spend their two years training at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

Specialising in infectious diseases, the Kenyan doctor arrived at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in 2014.

“As I got to know the other fellows in the programme, especially from East Africa, and through our conversations in the corridors of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, we realised that as a team, we could pool our collective energy and ideas together and try to make our contribution when we go back to East Africa,” explains Malande, who completed his training in June last year.

During his time in South Africa, Malande along with several other doctors – including Lawrence Owino (Kenya), Michael Muhame (Uganda), Edward Kija and Francis Frederick (Tanzania) – were concerned by the realisation that six to seven out of 10 deaths and diseases among children under the age of five in East Africa are due to vaccine preventable diseases.

“We met a few times and thought of ways we could work together to reduce the high burden of disease and deaths among children under the age of five years in East Africa. A sure way to contribute to a solution would be focusing on preventative care, so we identified four pillars: advocacy, training, research and strengthening health systems towards prevention and control of vaccine preventable diseases and cancer.”

Malande is the director of Ecavi, which launched in August 2014, and runs three programmes: the vaccinology course for health professionals, cervical cancer prevention programme and the health education programme.

Malande uses their Facebook platforms and website to share advice and information as far and wide as possible as well as get in touch with possible funders . They are also trying to work hand in hand with governments, the South African Vaccine Initiative (Savic) and Network for Education and Support in Immunisation in Antwerp Belgium (Nesi), East African universities and public health institutions when it comes to vaccination and immunisation.

“There are more than 40 million children in East Africa, so this is going to be a step-by-step process, but if we can educate 60 to 70 health workers just with one course, then we are already making a huge difference,” Malande explains.

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