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Mak Launches Homegrown COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits

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By: Harriet Adong, Mak-RIF Communications Officer

The afternoon of Wednesday March 17th, 2021 saw Makerere University’s Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, College of Health Sciences (CHS) launch the homegrown COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits. The COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits developed domestically aim to address challenges related to affordability/cost using imported items, promote research and innovation in the medical/health field and Makerere University in general.

This project was spearheaded by Dr. Misaki Wayengera, Director Biomedical Research at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University. Dr. Wayengera is also the Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee on the COVID-19 Taskforce in the Ministry of Health. These efforts are directed towards enhancing the fight against the spread of the Corona Virus not only at Makerere University but also in the entire country. Explaining the advantages of the project, Dr. Wayengera said “Makerere University has developed an affordable (costing less than US $1), easy to use (requiring minimal expertise, user guide), rapid (yielding results within 2-5 minutes) point of care test platform for COVID-19 suited for use within remote equatorial African settings. This will enable rapid testing for Coronavirus and considerably lower the cost of testing currently standing at USD 65, which is prohibitive for developing countries like Uganda. This could not have been achieved without the financial support of Partners and Institutions such as Supervised Financial Institutions under their umbrella body Uganda Bankers Association, Deposit Protection Fund of Uganda, and Government of the Republic of Uganda, the French Embassy in Uganda and Uganda’s Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation’’.

The Test Kit involves using a swab-tube dipstick to do an antigen test by use of a nasal sample. With this quick test, once the nasopharyngeal sample is obtained, it is placed back into its tube containing reagents that detect the virus surface protein.

French Ambassador to Uganda-H.E. Jules-Armand Aniambossou (2nd L) cuts the tape to unveil the Test Kits as Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng (2nd R), Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye (2nd L) and Dr. Misaki Wayengera (R) witness.

This event was attended by Uganda’s Minister of Health; Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero, Uganda’s Minister of Science Technology and Innovation; Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, French Ambassador to Uganda; His Excellency Jules-Armand Aniambossou, the World Health Organization Country Representative; Dr. Yonas W. Tegeny, Uganda’s Director General at Ministry of Health; Dr. Henry Mwebesa and the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Health; Dr. Diana Atwine. The funders were also represented at the event and these included; Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) represented by Dr. Roy William Mayega, Mak-RIF Coordinator, Uganda Bankers Association represented by Mr. Wilbrod Owor, the French Embassy and Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation like earlier listed  among other dignitaries.

At the occasion, Prof. Damalie Nakanjako, Principal Makerere University College of Health Sciences represented Makerere University’s Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe. She welcomed all scientists, innovators and the media fraternity (representing the community) to witness yet another stride in and by faculty in Uganda’s leading higher institution of learning-Makerere University. In her remarks, she noted that, the University has through College of Health Sciences built extensive expertise, experience and eco-systems across the academia and partnerships for Research and Development of pathogen diagnostic. “This kit will carry out antibody tests. It will also be used in early detection of COVID-19 cases, used in screening of travelers for COVID-19, detection of symptoms as well as aid in sero-prevalennce studies to determine previous exposure to COVID-19. Makerere University is hopeful that this will enable Uganda and other African countries to cost-effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Makerere University is grateful for the SEED funding (UGX 65, 527, 020) from the Government of the Republic of Uganda through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) which aided initialization of this project. The Government of the Republic of Uganda is funding cross disciplinary research and innovations (over 500 projects now, up to a tune of Uganda Shillings 60 billion only for the last two financial years). Makerere University faculty and students have through this initiative engaged with other institutions, organizations, disciplines and Ministries enhancing research and innovations in and outside the institution. For all this support, we are truly grateful to the Government of the Republic of Uganda and all our other funders/partners, Prof. Nakanjako added.

Minister of Science Technology and Innovation-Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye (R) chats with the Host and Principal College of Health Sciences (CHS)-Prof. Damalie Nakanjako (L) at the event. Centre is MoSTI’s Dr. Maxwell Onapa Otim

Hon. Dr. Elioda Tuwesigye, Minister of Science Technology and Innovation in Uganda noted that such strides like the launch of Makerere University homegrown COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Test Kits was only a wake-up call to all of us that the virus is still with us and we can together do so much to up the fight against further spread and effects. He thanked the Government of the Republic of Uganda for funding research and innovations in Makerere University and other institutions too. “It is through research that we garner additional knowledge to enable us to be and remain creative. Embracing Research and Innovation is the way to go if we are to realize development in our country, Africa and the globe’’, he added.

Uganda’s Minister of Health at the event in her remarks congratulated all scientists at Makerere University including Dr. Wayengera and his research for working closely with the Ministry to respond to diverse community challenges and in this case the Coronavirus. She noted that this virus is still with us and thus the need for us to continue observing the Standard Operating Procedures, researching ad innovating to carry on with the fight.  She added that some countries were experiencing the second and third wave of Coronavirus and thus Ugandans must remain on the alert regardless of the circumstances at the moment so that these waves do not crop in and sweep away the population. Hon. Dr. Aceng said: “These rapid antibody testing kits come at a point when we are preparing for the next wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, thank you Dr. Wayengera and team.’’ 

His Excellency Jules-Armand Aniambossou, French Ambassador in his remarks noted that the French Embassy in Uganda was and is happy to collaborate with and further support Makerere University’s efforts to respond to the Coronavirus. He said “Uganda’s response to COVID-19 was and is strong, immediate ad efficient. We need to learn from Uganda. Uganda can compete globally. Well done Scientists, he said as he officially launched the homegrown COVID-19 Rapid antibody Test Kits’’.

L-R: Mak-RIF Representative-Dr. Roy William Mayega, Uganda Bankers’ Association (UBA) Executive Secretary-Mr. Wilbrod Owor and MoSTI’s Dr. Maxwell Onapa Otim showcase the unveiled kits

In the drive to raise funds towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and in response to Government’s call for support to join hands, Members of Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) and the Deposit Protection Fund contributed UGX. 200million to the project which was in advanced stages in 2020. Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Wilbrod Owor-Executive Director UBA applauded Makerere University for the research efforts as an academic institution and the quick turnaround invention. “The pandemic has had diverse effects on the economy and one of the most affected sectors are education, tourism & hospitality, real estate which ultimately have affected the banking sector by way of increase in Non-Performing Loans.  In addition to the loan restructures that member banks have offered, as part of support to business community, we are also happy to have invested to support testing. Therefore, the affordability of this intervention is much welcome to address cost issues that would otherwise have to be so high for an average Ugandan” Owor said.

Dr. Roy William Mayega, Coordinator at the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) on behalf of Prof. William Bazeyo, Chair Mak-RIF thanked Dr. Wayengera and his research/innovation team for the work well done. He also thanked all funders for positively responding to the call for more resources to realize this project. He said “It is only when funders see such research and innovation outputs like the COVID-19 Rapid antibody Test Kits we are holding in our hands now that they will look further into their Bank Accounts to raise more resources to further support research and innovations. Thank you Dr. Wayengera and all the other Scientists for leading by doing. Let us continue with these efforts’’.

Dr. Wayengera acknowledged all the support/funding and gave each donor a pack of the COVID-19 Rapid Antibody Testing Kits.

Minister of Health-Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng (L) and Director General of Health Services-Dr. Henry Mwebesa (2nd L) lead the volunteers who experienced antibody testing after the Test Kits’ launch.

The event host, Prof. Nakanjako, Principal at Makerere University’s College of Health Sciences then thanked all participants and welcomed them to further engage in a cocktail as volunteers led by the Director General and Minister of Health experienced antibody testing using the newly launched kits. The rest of the COVID-19 Test Kits will be used in the Makerere University Medical School laboratories

Congratulations Makerere University and congratulations the Government of the Republic of Uganda!

‘We Build for the Future, For God and My Country’

View and read about this launch in the Media

  1. New COVID-19 rapid antibody test kits launched to reduce cost and promote research. – https://joripress.com/new-covid-19-rapid-antibody-test-kits-launched-to-reduce-cost-and-promote-research
  2. https://www.ntv.co.ug/ug/news/national/local-testing-ability-improves-with-new-covid-19-kits-3326454
  3. https://chimpreports.com/makerere-launches-own-covid19-testing-kit/
  4. https://www.independent.co.ug/makerere-university-launches-covid-19-anti-body-test-kits/
  5. https://twitter.com/JaneRuth_Aceng/status/1372187357781360642?s=1002
  6. https://www.monitor.co.ug/uganda/news/national/scientists-behind-uganda-s-first-coronavirus-test-kits-3327390
  7. New Vision Newspaper Friday March 19th , 2021, Page 10
  8. Daily Monitor Newspaper Thursday March 18th , 2021 Page 6

Health

Understanding & Preventing Drowning in Uganda

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Cover page of the "Understanding and Preventing Drowning in Uganda" Report 2020 by the Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH).

Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death; accounting for 7% of all injuries. Over 90% of the estimated 322,000 annual global drowning deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries. Although the burden of drowning is believed to be highest in the WHO-African region, data
collection and surveillance for drowning in African countries is limited. Drowning prevention strategies require adequate data on the burden and circumstances of drowning to help ensure data-driven prevention efforts. The World Health Organization recommends that all countries take steps to improve drowning data so that prevention strategies can be context-specific.

This report presents findings of a two-phased study that was conducted in 60 districts of Uganda for a period of 2.5 years (from January 1st, 2016 to June 30th, 2018). In the first phase, records concerning 1,435 drowning cases were found in the 60 study districts. Other than stating that the individual had drowned, there was very little information that could potentially guide prevention efforts.

The second phase was limited to only 14 of the initial 60 districts. In the 14 districts, a total of 2,066 drowning cases were identified by community health workers and confirmed through individual interviews with witnesses/family members/friends and survivors of drowning. Most (1,332; 64%) of these were deaths. Using the community approach, as opposed to official records, revealed more than three times the number of drowning deaths in the same 14 districts. Almost half of all people who drowned were engaged in an occupational activity at the time of the incident.

These results show that drowning is a major cause of premature death in Uganda, especially among young adults whose livelihoods depend on water activities. However, most drownings are preventable through policies and regulations that reduce exposure to drowning risk, and institution of interventions to ensure safety around water. Drowning is a multisectoral issue, and all stakeholders (local and national government, water transport, water sport, education, fishing, health, and law enforcement) should coordinate to develop a national water safety strategy and action plan. The strategy could address matters of leadership coordination, funding, advocacy, awareness raising, prioritization, target setting, and monitoring and evaluation.

Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze,
Professor & Dean, School of Public Health, Makerere University

Please Downloads for the full report.

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Health

Call for Applications: Leadership and Management in Global Health

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The Gardens at the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Mulago Campus, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

Makerere University Lung Institute through its NIH funded Non-Communicable Diseases Research training program #D43TW011401 aims to develop capacity for researchers to lead and manage NCD research programs in Uganda. As part of the program the Institute will sponsor participants with interest in NCD research to undertake a Leadership and Management in Global Health course with the University of Washington.  This course provides practical leadership and management skills that are required for working in complex local, regional, national, and global health environments.

How to Apply:

  1. Create an eDGH account: go to https://edgh.washington.edu, select ‘Log in’ on the top right, and then ‘Create a new account’. This will allow you to apply to the course and the account will keep track of your application and data
  2. Once you have created your account, go to  https://edgh.washington.edu/courses/participant-application
  3. Select the “Site-Based Participant” option when applying and select your site as “Uganda Kampala Makerere University Lung Institute” from the list on the application:
    1. Note: You may be asked if you understand that you may be responsible to contribute to site fees – select yes, but please note that there will be no cost to you for taking this course with our group.
    2. You will receive a confirmation email once you have submitted your application.

Application Deadline: 19th August, 2021.

Contact Information:

Dr. Charles Batte
Program Manager,
Makerere University Non-Communicable Diseases Training Program (MakNCD)
Email: dr.cbatte[at]gmail.com | makncd.chs[at]mak.ac.ug
Tel: +256700800618

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MakSPH Position: Program Officer – Uganda DDP for WH

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Job Advert: Program Officer Position - Uganda Data Driven Policy Initiative for Women’s Health, MakSPH.

Makerere University School of Public Health (Department of Community Health and Behavioural Sciences) in collaboration with Vital Strategies is looking for a Program Officer for an exciting new program to reduce maternal mortality in Uganda.

Vital Strategies also promotes public health programs that include road safety, mental health, and activities to strengthen public health data systems and the use of public health data to guide policy and decision-making in Uganda.

About the Program

Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) with funding from Vital Strategies will implement a program to promote women’s health by address leading causes of morbidity and mortality. This program under the name Data-Driven Policy Initiative to Improve Women’s Health (DDP for WH) aims to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality resulting from unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and complications of pregnancy and childbirth in Uganda. Other countries where this project is being implemented are Bangladesh and Rwanda.

The program officer will work closely with ministry of health to strengthen capacity to collect, analyze and apply data to develop evidence-based policies. This Initiative applies a data-to-policy model to support improved access to, and surveillance of, family planning, contraceptives, abortion care, and other sexual and reproductive health services. The program complements existing efforts in Uganda and leverages Vital Strategies’ expertise in health data, epidemiology, surveillance, health policy and public health law, and strategic communication and advocacy.

The program’s theory of change is based on the assumption that clear and compelling data and evidence, along with effective advocacy, is fundamental to create meaningful and impactful policy and program improvements. Anchoring the first-year activities in building capacity and understanding in the data and its gaps will serve as the basis for policy analysis and development. Also through support and partnership with others currently working in this space, will complement ongoing advocacy and communications, and implementation efforts in the initial year and beyond.

The Position

This is a two-year, grant funded position but may extend for additional years. The Program Officer will be responsible for supporting Uganda-specific program results. S/he will serve as a subject matter expert in epidemiology/health data/Health Management Information Systems and will guide and provide technical support to Ministry of Health (MoH) of Uganda counterparts. The program officer will report to the Principal Investigator at the MakSPH. Progress will be discussed with Program Director based at Vital Strategies, the MoH and the Kampala based Investigators. The primary responsibilities of this position will be to ensure that the implementation of Initiative-activities in Uganda are country-owned and country-driven, technically sound and sustainable. They should also be in line with program goals and objectives, best practice standards, approved work plans, and budgets. S/he will ensure that Initiative activities are continuously monitored, and that implementation obstacles are identified and reported in a timely manner.

This position requires expertise and experience in the technical dimensions of this work, i.e., reproductive and sexual health, familiarity with sources and analytic approaches for data related to reproductive health, safe abortion and post-abortion care, and the use of data for policymaking and program management. The officer will be embedded in the Ministry of Health and MakSPH with dual accountability to MakSPH and Vital Strategies.

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Term of Service

Initial consultant contract will be 12 months and may be renewed, subject to satisfactory performance. A three-month probationary period will apply.

How to Apply

Please submit your application, a CV including salary expectations to the Dean, MakSPH via the link below.

Application link: https://forms.gle/w5GPpqTCVgftQJvFA

The deadline for applications is August 6th 2021. Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

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