THE National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Director General, Dr Mwele Malecela, has become the first woman and African to be appointed Vice- President of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI).
Speaking to journalists in Dar es Salaam, Dr Malecela said that she was also the proud recipient of the USAID Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) Champion Award, in recognition of her hard work and dedication in the control and elimination of NTDs.
"Much as I am very proud for making these achievements, I would like to say that the honour is for the country for, it is the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare that is inching closer towards eradicating NTDs," she said.
The International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI) is a member organization of government agencies that are working towards improvement of the national disease prevention and response initiative.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia and Helsinki, Finland, IANPHI is made up of 83 national public health institutes (NPHIs) around the world. The goal of IANPHI is to improve health outcomes, particularly in low-resource countries, by strengthening or creating NPHIs.
Dr Malecela said that just as the new position and award brought recognition to her and the country, it also came with more responsibilities and accountability.
She said that being the first woman and African came with people having high expectations, but she was pleased that many people were pleased with her nomination and eventual appointment.
"What should Tanzanians expect from me? I will continue sensitizing the people in and outside the country. After working and researching on lymphatic filariasis and elephantiasis for more than 20 years, my passion on NTDs is known," she said.
Dr Malecela said that depending on the availability of the forums across the continent, she would collaborate with those countries that have just started having NTD programmes.
She said that since 2000 when the first programmes begun, Tanzania had made good strides that saw the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases dropping from 70 to 15 per cent in Coast region where there were pronounced cases.
In Tandahimba district, Mtwara region, elephantiasis infection rates have dropped to less than one per cent, a situation that has prompted an assessment to be carried out. Close monitoring is also done in Tanga and Mtwara after mosquitoes were found to be carrying fewer parasites.
Dr Malecela, in January 2011, was appointed the first ever woman Director General of the National Institute of Medical Research. Later that year (in October) she became the first Tanzanian to serve in the Executive Board of the IANPHI.
Dr Malecela, who is also Tanzania's Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Programme Director, is known for her initiatives in promoting health research activities. She also facilitated the Tanzania National Health Research Priority Setting process in 1999 and its revision in 2005.