Good morning members of the Press.
I welcome you all to this press conference conducted via Zoom in response to the COVID-19 lockdown. I hope you are all observing the guidelines given by the World Health Organisation and different Government Departments and Agencies to stay safe. Obviously it is difficult to convince you members of the press to stay home, but please do everything possible to stay safe. There have been many questions regarding the role of universities in the fight against COVID-19. Today we want to share with you what Makerere University is doing about COVID-19.
Makerere University was closed on 20th March 2020 following a presidential directive in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. All students and staff were sent home immediately, except very few international students, who failed to get means of going home, whom we are looking after on campus.
Makerere University has a long tradition of responding to health emergencies and epidemics. We were at theforefront of the response to HIV/Aids and Ebola and our contribution in both cases is known the world over. We have built enormous capacity at our College of Health sciences to respond to emerging diseases, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Our 350 members of staff at the College of Health Sciences work very closely with the Ministry of Health.All of these continue to offer critical services to non-COVID illnesses, COVID19 national task force, clinical management for patients with COVID 19, as well as clinical research on the evolving clinical presentations of the COVID19 disease.
RESPONSE TO COVID-19
In Uganda, the first case of COVID was reported on 21stMarch 2020 and the numbers have since grown to 55 within one month. The Minister of Health established a 17-member multidisciplinaryscientific advisory committee composed of experienced public health, clinical, biomedical, social andbehavioural scientists to advise the Ministry on the overall strategy to ensure an evidence-based strategy and implementation of the COVID response in Uganda. The majority of the members of thiscommittee are from Makerere University. The committee has extensively reviewed the globalliterature to inform the Ugandan policy and has also similarly assembled high priority evidence gapsfor which local data is needed to urgently inform the improvements in the COVID prevention and management in Uganda. The questions and priority interventions include development of new rapidtest diagnostics, to alleviate the anticipated severe shortage of test kits, which has been a majorchallenge globally. Other questions include tracking of the immunological response in relation to new treatment options based on plasma for COVID patients who have recovered as well as development of HERD Immunity to protect the communities from future resurgence of COVID.
Other questionsrevolve around enhanced treatments to reduce the severity of COVID disease and the need for moresophisticated intensive care, given the limited intensive care capacity in Uganda and the African region. The team has also identified the need to explore the socio-economic and health systemimpact of COVID in Uganda, to inform broader mitigation strategies. Below is a list of the priorityquestions:
- Development of a rapid diagnostic test for CoVID19
- Validation of other non-WHO accredited tests for CoVID19
- Studies of HERD immunity/Immune response andimplications for future prevention of COVID recurrence as well as clinical management
- Chloroquine/Hydroxychloroquine and other treatments
- Modelling of COVID19 epidemic in Uganda to inform planning and intervention mix over time
- Environmental sampling for public health risk evaluation
- Supporting the NIH biobank to acquire and store biological specimen for CoVID19
- Tracking health service utilization and COVID19 impacton health systems
- Sequencing of the SARS-CoV2 isolates among Ugandan CoVID19 patients
- Duration of viral shedding and Infectivity following recovery
- Effect of the Uganda COVID-19 treatment protocol on outcomes and associated factors
- Chloroquine for Prevention of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) amongst healthcare workersinvolved in COVID patient care
- Hydroxychloroquine vs Chloroquine for Post Exposure Prophylaxis for Coronavirus Disease(COVID-19) amongst Ugandans exposed couple with viral loads.
- Efficacy and Safety of Corticosteroids in severe COVID-19 related pneumonia
- Hydroxychloroquine/AzithromAzithromycin vs Chloroquine alone for Treatment for Severe COVID-19 Pulmonary Infection.
Makerere University researchers have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with innovations to address the challenges I have mentioned above. The innovations include the following:
- A rapid testing kit under development by a team led by Dr. MisakiWayengera. This kit should enable rapid testing for coronavirus and considerably lower the cost of testing currently standing at USD 65, which is obviously prohibitive for developing countries like Uganda.
- Diagnosis is a key strategy in pandemic control, enabling early detection of those infection and their isolation for treatment
- In the context of the on-going COVID19 pandemic, diagnosis has been problematic due to the global scarcity of the existing WHO approved test kits
- Moreover, the existing WHO approved kits for CoVID19 are premised on RT-PCR—detecting viral RNA. RT-PCR is itself an expensive platform (costing over US$65 per kit), requires a laboratory, demands technical expertise, and takes long (4-6 hours) to yield results.
- Thus, it is not amenable for point of care (POC) deployment in remote equatorial African settings, most without laboratory capacity
What we are doing
- Our group at MakCHS has over the past 15 years build extensive expertise, experience and eco-systems across the academia, industry and public private partnerships for R & D of pathogen diagnostics
- We are developing an affordable (costing < US$1), easy to use (requiring minimal expertise, user guide), rapid (yielding results within 2-5 minutes) POC test platform for COVID19 suited for use within remote equatorial African settings
- The swab-tube dipstick agglutination (STDS-AgX) SARS-CoV2 antigen test will utilize the nasopharyngeal sample collection swab, which is placed back into its tube containing reagents that detect the virus surface protein. On shaking, a positive result will be visualized as formation of particles (equivalent to what is seen when clear milk, goes bad)
- In addition, we shall develop two lateral flow test (LFT) platforms for detecting host-specific antibody responses against CoVID19 (IgM and IgG)
- Detection of COVID19 cases within epidemic/pandemic settings (STDS-AgX COVID19 Ag test)
- Screening of travelers for COVID19 (either STDS-AgX COVID19 Ag test or IgM LFA)
- Detection of asymptomatic COVID19 (STDS-AgX COVID Ag test and IgM LFA)
- Sero-prevalence studies to determine previous exposure (IgG LFA)
These home-grown assay platforms will enable Uganda and other African settings cost-effectively respond to the COVID19 pandemic. This particularly as the pandemic enters the exponential phase in many countries when many cases will emerge, and yet tests are scarce on the global scene
- Antibody (IgM and IgG) LFA (end of May, 2020)
- 1st STDS-AgX COVID19 (June 2020)
- The Epidemic Management Tent (EpiTent) developed by a team from the Resilient Africa Network (RAN), a project involving 16 universities in 11 african countries based in the School of Public Health and coordinated by Prof. Bazeyo. The EpiTent is used for isolation of patients with severe communicable diseases like Ebola and COVID-19 and it is approved by the USAID and the WHO;
- Development of a low-cost ventilator by a team involving researchers from the Resilient Africa Network, College of Engineering and Technology, College of Health Sciences and engineers from Kiira Motors Corporation. The team successfully conducted an engineering test of the ventilator on 10th April 2020 and it is now undergoing various validation tests before applying to the National Drug Authority and other certifying agencies for use on patients. The ventilator will considerably lower the cost of this very important facility from the current cost on the open international market, which ranges between USD 25,000 and 60,000. Development of the ventilator, which will cost approximately USD 5,000 is expected to be completed in the next four to eight weeks;
- Makerere University Health Services with support from Case Western Reserve University has built capacity to perform PCR based (molecular) tests for COVID-19. They will be able to conduct 40,000 tests and they are finalizing the details for implementation;
- Makerere University is partnering with several local and international research institutions and universities in the search for solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
RESPONSES BY OTHER DISCIPLINES
Faculty from the Colleges of Health Sciences and Engineering, design, Art and Technology are at the forefront of responding to the pandemic. However, faculty from other disciplines are making a contribution too. Several of these faculty are making a contribution to raising awareness among the community and providing correct information where fake news has raised alarms like in the case of the claim that COVID-19 is caused by the 5G Technology. Management of a pandemic like COVID-19 cannot be achieved by health science alone, societal behavior is key, hence the role of humanities and social sciences and I am glad that faulty at Makerere University from various disciplines are making their contribution.
Let me end my remarks by thanking our faculty from the College of Health Sciences, who have joined the rest of the health workers in Uganda at the frontline in fighting the spread of COVID-19 disease. I also thank all our scientists who are looking for local solutions to the pandemic and we are glad to share any research results with the international community. Makerere is committed to contributing to knowledge creation and innovations for the good of humanity. We will continue along this path because this is what makes us a truly global university. I thank all of you members of the press for joining this conference. We will now take some questions, which our researchers will be happy to answer.
Call For Nominations for the Position of Chancellor Makerere University
Makerere University invites nominations for the position of Chancellor of the University.
Purpose of the position
The Chancellor is the titular head of the University, presides over all ceremonial assemblies of the University and confers degrees and other academic titles and distinctions of the University.
Please see Download below for details.
The deadline for submission of nominations is 11th January 2024 at 5:00 p.m. East African Time.
Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda calls for full involvement of men and boys in achieving Gender Equality
The Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda Her Excellence Maria Håkansson has emphasized the need to fully engage men and boys in all the initiatives geared towards achieving Gender Equality in Uganda and other parts of the world. She said this on 28th November 2023 at a press conference organized by the Embassy of Sweden in close collaboration with Makerere University Gender Mainstreaming Directorate, UN Women and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to unveil the National Orange Pledge campaign and officially launch the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
The press conference was headlined by a Ugandan rapper and record producer Daniel Lubwama Kigozi, popularly known by his stage name Navio and his fellow from Sweden Jason Michael Bosak Diakité popularly known as Timbuktu. Over 200 students both male and female from Makerere University and other institutions of higher learning attended the press conference at Makerere University Rugby Grounds.
According to Her Excellence Maria Håkansson, Gender Equality cannot be achieved without involving men and boys to take their responsibilities and be the drivers of change. “For real change to happen, we need to change attitudes and norms that might cause Gender Based Violence, one of the social ills in Uganda and an extreme of gender inequality that occurs at all levels of society,” she said.
Referring to the national survey conducted in 2020, the Ambassador was concerned about the escalating burden of gender based violence in Uganda when she said, “the Survey highlighted that 95% of women and girls experience physical or sexual violence since the age of 15.”
She therefore emphasized the Global 16 Days of Activism as key international movement to increase awareness and advocate for an end to Gender Based Violence. The Ambassador also mentioned that preventing and responding to Gender Based Violence is a cornerstone for Sweden’s commitment to promote democracy, human rights and gender equality and this is done as an investment in a society that upholds the principles of equality, dignity and justice.
She acknowledged the full participation of university students in all campaigns and activities geared towards achieving gender equality as well as ending Gender Based Violence when she said, “You are the leaders of tomorrow and you have an opportunity to build a future where everyone can thrive. So please use today to take an active stand against Gender Based Violence.”
Every year Uganda joins the rest of the world to enhance the global campaigns on 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence and also add a voice to the call for an end to violence against women and girls. These campaigns run from 25th November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) until 10th December of the Human Rights Day.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE by 2030 initiative calls for global action to increase awareness, galvanize advocacy efforts and share knowledge and innovations to help end all types of violence against women and girls. This year 2023, the UNiTE campaign theme is; Invest to Prevent Violence against Women & Girls.
Over the years, Makerere University through its Gender Mainstreaming Directorate and School of Women and Gender in partnership with UN Women and many other partners have been at the fore front to support the campaign on 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence in Uganda. This has been done through debates, theatre forums, student dialogues, thematic artistic presentations, media exposures, drama and music skits presentation, and student peer led discussions and quarterly competitions.
This year 2023, the University in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden, UN Women and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) unveiled the Orange Pledge. According to Eric Tumwesigye the Senior Gender Specialist at Makerere University Gender Mainstreaming Directorate, this campaign calls upon government, policymakers, activists, civil societies, academicians, students and all members of community from all parts of the country to make their heartfelt pledges towards ending Gender Based Violence in Uganda and the rest of the world.
The UN Women Country Representative Paulina Chiwangu recognized the investment Makerere University, the Embassy of Sweden and UNFPA have made to end violence against women and girls. “Thanks to our collective efforts, the silence that used to shroud violence against women has now been broken” said.
In the same spirit, she acknowledged the progress Makerere University has made in establishing and implementation of the University’s Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment to protect students and staff from potential abuses of power and conflict of interest. She also applauded the increased support and training for students and the strengthened mechanisms for investigations that allow students and staff to anonymously report sexual misconduct.
“We are however, aware that despite this, sexual harassment is still happening in the university and that not many students report to the authorities when they experience it. It is therefore, our humble appeal to the university leadership to continue monitoring the implementation of the Policy and Regulations Against Sexual Harassment, take all allegations of sexual harassment and violence seriously, ensure that all personnel have information on available support services and take action to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.”
Reaffirming the University’s position in fighting GBV and particularly sexual harassment, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe was highlighted the various measures Makerere University has put in place to prevent and respond to Gender Based Violence. To him, the Policy and Regulations against Sexual Harassment; the appointment and capacity building for the Vice Chancellor’s Roster of 100 eminent people from the various colleges and administrative units; recruitment and training of the Gender Mainstreaming Programme Student Peer Trainers and setting up Sexual Harassment Investigation Committees are bigger milestones to celebrate.
He appreciated the move by the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate and all the partners to embrace entertainment and artistry as a critical advocacy and awareness tool to reach several communities especially the youth.
“We firmly believe in the transformative power of music and the arts in promoting social change. Music and art does serve as a powerful medium to advocate for the world free from violence especially violence against women,” said to Mr. Dainel Alemu, the UNFPA Deputy Country Representative.
“It is heartening to see artists like Navio taking a stand and using their influence to challenge harmful norms. As we revel in the beats and melodies, let us not forget he underlying message that everyone , regardless of gender, has a role to play in fostering a world where everyone is free from shackles of gender based violence,” he added.
Speaking at the Press Conference at Makerere University Rugby Grounds, Navio said that for the 20 years he has been an activist of Gender Based Violence, he has faced the reality of many young girls and women in Uganda being victims of sex and physical abuse. He therefore sent a huge condemnation to men especially artists that who are perpetrators of Gender Based Violence and called for serious government action and clear policies and laws against such injustices.
Navio applauded the women and men who have stood tall over the years to fight against Gender Based Violence in Uganda when he said, “ As we launch the 16 days activism in Uganda and through these pledges we are making, let us be accountable for our actions. For long in our cultures, men have considered force and violence as power and protection. They have been tough to their children hence instilling fear to the extent that the children cannot freely interact with them on serious matters such as abuse and torture.”
He applauded all families that have adopted the new parenting model of free conversations and interaction hence encouraging children to freely open up whenever they have challenges. Navio also acknowledged the role of his mother Mrs Maggie Kigozi as a human rights activist and a champion in fighting against Gender Based Violence in Uganda.
Jason Michael Bosak Diakité popularly known as Timbuktu from Sweden appreciated the wider platform provided by the music industry globally for artists to act as role models and champion of change. The rapper highlighted the need to respect women for their roles and support towards community development.
“I am a son and it is extremely important for me to respect my mother and all women. Also being a father to a beautiful daughter, I am always eager and looking forward to seeing the best future for her. I want daught to grow up in the world where she is able to feel safe and be allowed to freely associate without being discriminated or threatened because of her gender,” he said.
Scholars & Alumni of Mastercard Foundation light up Achukudu Community, Napak District
By Bernard Buteera
On Saturday 2nd December 2023, all roads led to Achukudu Community Primary School in Napak District, Karamoja sub-region, as the Scholars and Alumni of Mastercard Foundation at Makerere University commemorated their Scholars’ Annual Day of Community Service (Giveback). The 2023 Scholars Annual Day of Community Service was held at Achukudu Community Primary School, Napak District in the Karamoja sub-region. Established in 2013, Achukudu Community School serves two ethnic communities—The Iteso and Karamojong.
With a total population of 1,097 pupils only three government-paid teachers, and nine community-paid teachers, the School faces a plethora of challenges. Key among the challenges is the lack of Classrooms, decent Ventilated Pit Latrines, and Desks. Therefore when the Scholars identified the School as one that deserved to be given a gift of a classroom block, it was a befitting choice!
The Scholars with support from the alumni, the Program Team, Members of the Steering Committee, and partners of the Scholars Program at Makerere University intervened by constructing a two-classroom block, which was supervised by one of the alumni who is an Engineer. Alongside the classroom block, the Scholars also provided 40 desks, helping the school meet UNEB Center eligibility criteria.
While presiding over the event, the area member of Parliament, Hon. John Bosco Ngoya, thanked the Scholars and alumni community at Makerere University for supporting the young pupils of Achukudu Primary School and the entire community by gifting them with a two-classroom block.
“Thank you Scholars and alumni of Mastercard Foundation at Makerere University for the Christmas gift of a classroom block to the young people and the entire community of Achukudu. This classroom block will go a long way in improving the learning environment of the young children of Achukudu primary school.” Hon. Ngoya pointed out.
Hon. Ngoya called upon other people to emulate the Scholars and alumni of the Mastercard Foundation in embracing the spirit of giving back to the vulnerable people in the community. On his part, he donated One Million Five hundred shillings (1,500,000/=) to help the School purchase more desks, and he had earlier contributed One million shillings (1,000,000/=) towards the construction of the classroom block.
The District Education Officer (DEO) for Napak District, Ms. Joyce Nakoya, praised the Scholars Community for embracing and practicing the spirit of giving back to other people at an early age.
“Thank you Scholars and alumni of the Mastercard Foundation at Makerere for embracing the spirit of giving back to other people at such an early age. If all people gave back to the less privileged in our communities, we would have a better world for everyone.” Ms. Nakoya pointed out.
Ms. Nakoya further pointed out every child deserves to study in a decent environment, therefore it was a befitting cause for the Scholars to construct a classroom block for the young pupils of Achukudu community primary school, who were studying in open grass thatched classrooms.
The Program Manager of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University, Ms. Jolly Okumu who led the team of Scholars, alumni, and staff to Karamoja thanked the community of Achukudu for supporting the Scholars to deliver the class block by contributing to the construction sand.
“We come here today to join with you as a community driven by a shared commitment to education, empowerment, and ethos of giving back. Today is a historic occasion as we celebrate the completion and commissioning of the classroom block, which is a remarkable testament to the transformative power of education and our unwavering spirit of community service.” Ms. Jolly remarked.
The President of the Scholars Association, Mr. Godfrey Okello, thanked all the Scholars and alumni, and all stakeholders who contributed to the construction of the classroom block, which was a dream that became a reality.
“I would like to thank my colleagues and people of goodwill who supported us to realize our dream of constructing this classroom for our young brothers and sisters of Achukudu Primary School. Together we can make a difference in the lives of our fellow young people in Uganda and Africa as a whole.” Mr. Okello remarked.
The Headteacher of the School, Mr. Eryebu Raymond, who was visibly very excited was full of praises for Scholars and alumni of the Mastercard Foundation, for what he termed as an iconic classroom block they had gifted to his School.
“This day is very special to us, we will not see this day again. We are delighted to receive the Scholars and alumni of Mastercard Foundation from Makerere University, thank you for considering supporting our School” Mr. Eryebu excitedly remarked.
The Headteacher revealed that one of the major challenges the school was facing was an acute shortage of classrooms for his 1,097 pupils. He was therefore grateful to Mastercard Foundation Scholars for choosing to construct a two-class block for the School.
“This donation of a classroom block and Desks is a testament to your commitment to education and empowering the lives of the vulnerable people in the community. This classroom block and desks will go a long way in improving the quality of teaching and learning at our school.” Mr. Eryebu further remarked.
The 2023 Scholars Annual Day of Community Service (Giveback) was punctuated with a lot of joy, pomp, and fanfare, as the pupils and the entire community of Achukudu danced and ululated at the commissioning of the classroom block. The construction of the classroom block and purchase of desks for Achukudu Community Primary School was made possible by generous contributions by the Scholars, alumni, the Program Team, and members of the Steering Committee.
Among the Partners who made financial contributions towards the class block construction included; DFCU Bank, Post Bank, URA, Katumba Estates, Footsteps Furniture Ltd, and Sion Travels Ltd.
The Scholars and Alumni Day of Community Service (Give back) is an annual event, where Scholars and alumni of the Mastercard Foundation go out into the community to give back by providing solutions to challenges that a particular community is facing. Over the years Scholars have given back to the communities in numerous ways that range from offering professional services and erecting major projects like classroom blocks.
Bernard Buteera is the Communications and Public Relations Officer of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University.
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