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Multinational Delegation Meets with UCLA Africa Experts on Malaria

Multinational Delegation Meets with UCLA Africa Experts on Malaria

20 health professionals from 19 countries including 12 in Africa consult on control of killer disease during U.S. visit.

By Harout Semerdjian

Health professionals from 19 countries met with UCLA Africa and public health specialists July 8. While their overall mission in the United States was to investigate infectious diseases in general and HIV/AIDS, their particular goal in coming to UCLA was to have discussions on controlling malaria, considered to be the leading killer of children in many countries of the African continent. The delegation included representatives from 12 African countries, three Asian countries, and one delegate from Estonia in Europe. The UCLA visit was hosted by the International Institute's International Visitors Bureau (IVB).
The guests were welcomed to UCLA by IVB Assistant and History Ph.D. student Harout Semerdjian. Their meeting was initiated by Dr. Allen Roberts, professor and director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center. Dr. Roberts briefed the guests about the center, describing it as one of the oldest and most prestigious in the nation and the only National Resource Center for African Studies west of the Mississippi River. He informed the guests that UCLA offers an M.A. degree in African Area Studies, which can also be combined with a Master's degree in Public Health (MPH) to articulate a joint program that would prepare students to specialize in health issues concerning African nations. Currently there are 500 students at UCLA in the MPH program and 200 doctoral students, with 10 enrolled in the joint MA/MPH program.

Several of the guests expressed interest in sending students to UCLA to pursue their education in the School of Public Health. While exchange programs have been worked out in the past with universities in Kenya and Tanzania, it is very difficult and costly to bring students from Africa to UCLA for higher education. Several of the guests were especially interested in online distance learning in Public Health. While they were disappointed to learn that UCLA does not offer such opportunities, Dr. Roberts agreed to look into possibilities to establish distance learning in the School of Public Health.

The guests also met with Dr. Paula Tavrow, Visiting Associate Professor of Public Health and director of the Bixby Program in Population and Reproductive Health. She focused her talk on her work in east and south Africa. Her research has revealed that many Africans seek out small, private pharmacies as opposed to actual health clinics to find medication for malaria. In Uganda, for example, over eighty percent of respondents of a survey went to such private shops. This way the people do not necessarily get the correct information about malaria treatment. As high as 40 percent of medication packages contained erroneous information about the disease.

Among Dr. Tavrow's projects was to train the retailers from whom the small shop owners got their medicine, who would in turn give their clients accurate information. This approach was termed  "vendor-to-vendor" education. Another approach called "neighbor-to-neighbor" was developed, which would involve the identification and training of five individuals from a village or town. These individuals would then go into their villages and pass out informational booklets about malaria and treatment of the disease. This type of intervention eventually reached 58 percent of the population of the given area, thus doubling the number of people purchasing the correct malaria medication.

Dr. Tavrow placed heavy emphasis on the responsibility of national governments of African countries for the misinformation about malaria and malaria treatment. She stressed that the governments are well aware of the imports of such medicines into their country, and should be able to inspect the packages at seaports and airports. While some of the delegates disagreed, Dr. Tavrow maintained her resolve that the governments could play a decisive role in helping to eradicate many of the problems dealing with malaria treatment.

The visitors deemed their short visit to UCLA highly intense and informative. They left with high hopes that in the near future online distance learning could be established at the School of Public Health in order to share with them the expertise and information that UCLA professors and researchers possess.

The members of the delegation were:

Argentina: Ms. Claudia Sylvia VUJACICH, medical coordinator of Hepatitis Unit, Center for Infectious Diseases Foundation; professor/researcher, Center for Infectious Diseases Foundation.

Burma: Ms. Cho Nann SI, medical officer and acting coordinator, Medecins Sans Frontieres-Holland in Rangoon.

Cameroon: Mr. Peter Ndeboc FONKWO, resident advisor, USAID Project on Family Health and HIV/AIDS.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Mr. Emery Mpwate MUNFU, director, NGO “Carrefour des Jeunes.”

Eritrea: Mr. Araia Berhane MESFIN, medical officer, Ministry of Health, Gash Barka Zone; zonal medical officer, Gash Barka Zone.

Estonia: Ms. Kai KLIIMAN, director, Lung Clinic, Tartu University Clinics; manager of the National Tuberculosis Program of Estonia.

Ethiopia: Mr. Tilahun Woldemichael GEBREHIWOT, deputy director, Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute.

India: Mr. Debdut GHOSHTHAKUR, chief reporter, "Ananda Bazar Patrika"; professor, Burdwan University of Bengal.

Jamaica: Ms. Marceleen Venesia JORDINE-WHEATLE, program officer, HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Program, St. James Health Department.

Malawi: Mr. Peter Kondwani MAZINGALIWA, deputy executive director, Nkhotakota Youth Organization; Youth Center Director.

Mozambique: Mr. Ruis Manuel BASTOS DOS SANTOS, director of the Dermatology Department, Ministry of Health/Maputo Central Hospital; professor of Dermatology, Faculty of Medicine, Eduardo Mondlane University.

Namibia: Ms. Lydia Vekauna KANDETU, environmental health officer, Ongwendiva Town Council.

Namibia: Ms. Regina SHIKONGO, lecturer and academic coordinator, University of Namibia, North Campus.

Nigeria: Ms. Naomi JACK, senior nursing superintendent, Bukata Community Clinic; health coordinator, Mission Team Outreach.

Papua New Guinea: Dr. Ninkama Moiya, director, National AIDS Council.

Sierra Leone: Mr. Samuel KARGBO, district medical officer, Daru, Ministry of Health and Sanitation; district medical officer, Daru, Kailahun District.

Swaziland: Mr. Phefeni Victor VILAKATI, training officer, The AIDS Support Center; radio program producer, Yonge Nawe Environmental Action Group; coordinator, HIV and AIDS in the Workplace, TASC.

Togo: Mr. Guy Consolation AHIALEGBEDZI, coordinator, NGO "Vivre Meiux."

Trinidad and Tobago: Ms. Gertrude BERNARD-TRIM, field interviewer, Contact, Tracing and Counseling Nursing Assistant.

Zimbabwe: Mr. Blessing CHEBUNDO, member of parliament, Parliament of Zimbabwe; chairman, Health and Child Welfare Parliamentary Committee; shadow Minister for Health and Child Welfare.

UCLA International Institute