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President to Open Munyonyo World Health Summit to Discuss Pandemic

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The President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will officially open the World Health Summit Regional Meeting Africa on Sunday 27th June 2021. The Regional Meeting is hosted by Makerere University and the Government of Uganda and will run from 27th to 30th June 2021 at the Speke Resort Munyonyo.

During this meeting, the President is expected to have a one-on-one discussion with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization, where he will advocate for vaccine equity and access for African countries including Uganda.

The World Health Summit held every October in Berlin, Germany is complimented by a Regional Meeting in a different part of the world. Health is a truly global challenge—most health issues affect people everywhere. At the same time, different regions and cultures have different health priorities.

At the World Health Summit Regional Meeting, these local and regional topics come to the forefront. Each meeting is hosted and organized by the M8 Alliance member holding the World Health Summit International Presidency, which rotates every year. M8 Alliance is a consortium of Academic Health Centres, Universities, and National Academies currently with 25 leading medical Schools in the world.

This will be the first time the World Health Summit Regional Meeting is held in Africa. The largely virtual meeting will be conducted under strict observance of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) outlined by the Ministry of Health. Only sixty international and local delegates have been cleared to attend the sessions physically at Munyonyo.

The Central topics of the Regional Meeting are: COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa; Non-Communicable Diseases; Universal Health Coverage; Global Health Security & Infectious Diseases; Advancing Technology for Health in Africa; Intersectoral Action for Health; and The Health of the African Youth.

In his welcome message to delegates, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe noted that the Regional Meeting is being hosted at a trying and therefore particularly important time for the whole world. As such, he said, discussions on the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to take center stage.

He therefore rallied Ugandans as hosts to attend and actively participate in the largely virtual event, which will also feature exhibitions by Makerere University Staff and Students.

“We are extremely delighted to be leading the preparations for the World Health Summit Regional Meeting. With health professionals and other stakeholders in government and the private sector coming together, I’m optimistic that the meeting will stir us all to think better and work harder to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, all of which pertain to health, whether directly or indirectly,” says Prof. Charles Ibingira, International President of the World Health Summit 2021 and former Principal of the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Makerere University.

Explaining how the 80% virtual event will proceed, Prof. Tonny Oyana, Finance Chairperson of the World Health Summit Regional Meeting said, “We have planned the technologies; ZOOM, YouTube and other means to be able to overcome the challenges that arise when you host virtually.

“And so, it is an opportunity to first of all inspire our young people that this is what can happen if you become the best in the country” added Prof. Oyana.

Highlighting the benefits that come with hosting the summit, Dr. Bruce Kirenga, Chairperson of World Health Summit Regional Meeting Scientific Committee says, “It is a very good platform for advocating for Global Health and it happening in Uganda and in Africa at this point in time is going to create an opportunity to bring experts from all over Africa and other continents to discuss the issues concerning how to deal with the pandemic.”

Picking up from where Dr. Kirenga left off, Prof. Damalie Nakanjako, Principal College of Health Sciences (CHS) notes that, “This World Health Summit will give an opportunity for African Scientists and African Investigators to engage on the international scene with scientists, pharmaceutical companies and industry to illustrate that what happens in Africa is of global importance.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely strained the delivery of essential health services. Talking about how the session she will participate in will address this, Prof. Rhoda Wanyenze, Dean School of Public Health says, “We have been doing a study in four countries in Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda and we’ll have an opportunity to explore how these countries have performed and what they have done to ensure that we continue to deliver essential health services even as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities and National Academies is the academic foundation of the World Health Summit. It is a growing network and currently consists of 30 members in 20 countries, including the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP), which represents the national academies of medicine and science in 130 countries.

More at: www.worldhealthsummit.org/m8-alliance.html

The World Health Summit is one of the world’s leading strategic forums for global health with 6,000 participants onsite and online, 300 speakers from 100 nations and 50 sessions. This year’s World Health Summit will take place from October 24-26 in Berlin and virtually.

With over thirty sessions lined up for the Regional Meeting 2021, participants should expect lively discussion, new ideas, and major progress for global health—in the region and around the world.

Please visit the conference website here: https://regionalmeetinguganda.com/

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Etheldreda Nakimuli-Mpungu: Innovator in Mental Health

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Dr. Etheldreda Nakimuli-Mpungu: Innovator in Mental Health, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University. Photo: Lancet

By Udani Samarasekera

Etheldreda Nakimuli-Mpungu is a rising researcher and clinician doing innovative work in mental health and HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. She is a Senior Lecturer and psychiatric epidemiologist in the Department of Psychiatry at Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) and head of the consultation–liaison psychiatric service at Mulago National Referral Hospital, Kampala, Uganda. Almost a decade ago, she recalls that “around that time, there were researchers who had resolved that Africans cannot comprehend psychotherapy; therefore, they gave persons living with HIV antidepressants as first-line treatment for mild-to-moderate depression in their research studies. In fact, there was an NIH funded grant in my department at the time that was evaluating the use of antidepressants for depression among people living with HIV. I said to myself, but this is not right because antidepressants are not the first-line treatment.” She “strongly believed that what we should be doing was to develop culturally appropriate psychotherapy for depression” in this population.

Nakimuli-Mpungu’s PhD had shown depression was fairly common among patients attending rural HIV clinics in Uganda and it affected their adherence to antiretroviral treatment. She successfully submitted a research proposal to Grand Challenges Canada and, together with her colleagues, teamed up with Edward Mills in Canada to develop and test in a pilot trial a culturally sensitive group support psychotherapy (GSP) for people with mild-to-moderate major depression and HIV. Nakimuli-Mpungu and colleagues went on to complete a cluster randomised trial to evaluate the model on a large scale, with trained lay health workers delivering the GSP. They showed that the effect of GSP on depression was sustained at 2 years, and treating depression resulted in improved adherence to antiretroviral medication. Nakimuli-Mpungu and colleagues are now seeking to replicate their work on GSP outside of Uganda. “That is the next step…If we have that evidence as well, then we’re at the stage of scaling up.” They are also adapting their model for young people aged 10–18 years and are creating an online platform to deliver psychotherapy because, she notes, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a need for digital health.

Mills, Professor at the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada, comments: “Ethel is among the most important clinical researchers in Africa as she has the unique ability to ask important questions, get the clinical trials funded and conducted reliably, and personally analyses the data. Very few researchers anywhere can do all of this themselves.”

Her parents encouraged Nakimuli-Mpungu to pursue medicine. “Our parents really wanted us to get educated and become worthwhile citizens”, she says. “My earliest memory was that my mum used to say that girls become doctors”. Fortunately, Nakimuli-Mpungu found sciences interesting and excelled in them. She studied medicine at MakCHS, graduating in 1999. Her path to psychiatry and research came during a job as a medical officer at Butabika National Referral Mental Hospital in Kampala. She initially thought she would be working in the hospital’s general ward. But when she arrived, she was assigned to the female psychiatric ward and told to start seeing patients. “Almost immediately, I noticed there were really physically sick people on the psychiatric ward, and I had never seen this in my training. Very sick people: wasted, coughing, chronic diarrhoea. It didn’t take long to realise that these were patients with HIV.” But she could find little information on HIV and mental health in her psychiatric textbooks and searched online for research on HIV and mental disorders. “When I read those papers, immediately I said, I think this is the research I should also be doing, here in these patients who I’m seeing on a daily basis.” Butabika Hospital gave her a scholarship and she enrolled in the masters in psychiatry programme at MakCHS in 2003, graduating in 2006. Her research was a comparative study of primary mania versus secondary mania of HIV/AIDS. “It was, to my knowledge, the first time on the African continent that that kind of research was done”, she says. In 2007, she was awarded an International Fulbright Science and Technology Award for PhD studies and went on to complete her PhD in psychiatric epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA, in 2012.

Seggane Musisi, Professor of Psychiatry at MakCHS’s Department of Psychiatry, describes Nakimuli-Mpungu as “a bright and gifted scholar…She has impacted Ugandan and world psychiatry by working to improve access to care of stigmatised, marginalised, and hard to reach people with severe
mental illness in LMICs.” Nakimuli-Mpungu believes the mental health focus in Uganda needs to shift. “The problem in Uganda, maybe not only in Uganda, is that our focus is on the extreme end of the mental health spectrum, severe mental disorders…I feel that we should prioritise mental health. This requires creating awareness, education, and identifying the mild cases and then you step in at that stage…All health workers need to have at least the basic knowledge; they need to learn simple mental health screening to recognise depression. And when you identify a problem, immediately do something, give them an intervention. This does not call for specialised health workers because they’re not there. But we all have mental health, and our mental health needs to be taken care of. Otherwise, it makes our physical health worse, we can’t work, so we can’t develop our communities.”

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IDI Supports Namboole CTU

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U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, H.E. Natalie E. Brown (2nd L) is received by Dr. Mwebesa Henry-Director General Health Services (L), Dr. Andrew Kambugu-IDI Executuve Director (R) and other officials from MoH, CDC and IDI upon arrival at Namboole COVID-19 Treatment Unit (CTU) on 9th July 2021.

Today, the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, H.E. Natalie E. Brown visited the Namboole COVID-19 Treatment Unit (CTU) which was reactivated on 28th May 2021 to manage mild, moderate, and severe COVID-19 patients in order to de-congest Mulago and Entebbe CTUs.

With support from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) Makerere University has continued to provide technical, human resource, and logistical support to strengthen Infection Prevention and Control, Clinical Care, Emergency Medical Services and Psychosocial support.

The US Ambassador was joined by Dr. Mwebesa Henry, the Director-General Health Services, Ministry of Health, Dr. Ivan Kisuule, In-charge Namboole CTU, Dr. Jennifer Galbraith, Ag. CDC Country Director, Dr. Amy Boore, Program Director Division of Global Health Protection CDC, Dr. Andrew Kambugu, IDI Executive Director, Francis Kakooza, Deputy Head of Department IDI Global Health Security Program, and Judith Nanyondo Program manager CDC/IDI Strengthening Partnerships for Preparedness and Response in Uganda Project.

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Africa Must Step Up! Reflections from WHS Regional Meeting 2021

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The President of the Republic of Uganda H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni flanked by the First Lady & Minister of Education and Sports Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni inspect exhibitions at the WHS Regional Meeting Africa on 27th June 2021, Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala. Left is President WHS & M8 Alliance-Prof. Axel Pries, 2nd Left is German Ambassador to Uganda-H.E. Matthias Schauer, Right is WHO Country Representative to Uganda-Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam while 4th Right is the Vice Chancellor-Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.

By Charles Ssemugabo and Rawlance Ndejjo

The World Health Summit regional meeting in Kampala, Uganda (June 27-30), which was first slated to take place end of April 2020 has just been concluded. The reason for the postponement of the meeting in 2020 was, you guessed it, the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, one year later, the pandemic is still far from over, with the host country, Uganda currently hit by its second wave of COVID-19. The latest wave seems largely fueled by the (more infectious and deadly) Delta variant. The current peak of cases in Uganda is over 400% the one registered during the first wave in December 2020, and the country has been under a 42-day total lockdown since June 18. The summit thus required special permission to have a few delegates on site.  

Against this backdrop, it was thus not surprising that the prominent message from the summit was the need for vaccine equity as many countries in the global south have so far been left behind in accessing the life-saving intervention. Just 1.1% of the African population have received COVID-19 vaccination, mostly through the COVAX facility. A stark comparison was made between the developed countries of which many are currently opening up, having ramped up vaccinations for their populations, while at the same time many countries especially in Africa are locking up (again) amidst a third COVID-19 wave that is sweeping the continent. “A pandemic fueled by inequity”, vaccine ‘nationalism’ and ‘apartheid’ were some of the terms being used. The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus re-echoed the need for sharing vaccines now and investing in local production, stressing also that Africa needs to build its own capacity to manufacture COVID-19 and other vaccines.

Amidst the acknowledgement of the unfairness of the rich world in hoarding vaccines and neglecting Africa, a consensus emerged on the need for Africa to step up its capacity to deal with, and solve its problems. “Selfishness in the world is bad but also good to wake up Africans.” the Ugandan president, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, remarked at the opening of the summit. He continued “Africa should not depend on others for vaccines and essential commodities. We need to invest in Africa. Africa has fought Ebola; it can address its problems.”

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