Africa: Innovators Working to Meet Africa's Unmet Health Needs

17 April 2019

Praia — An exhibition by the 30 WHO Innovation Challenge finalists was officiated by President of Cabo Verde Jorge Carlos Fonseca with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The innovators exhibited their innovations on the three-day WHO Africa Health Forum in Praia. The initiative attracted over 2 400 applications. Entries came in from 77 countries, 44 of them from African countries, with 34% of submissions from women innovators. The initiative aimed to source, select and profile innovations that apply a fresh new look in addressing challenges the continent faces.

Twambilile Phanga is a Malawian citizen, a researcher, and an advocate who is passionate about projects that promote rights, education and health of adolescents. Watch the video
She currently works as a senior research officer at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Project on adolescent focused projects. The Youth Friendly Health Services (YFHS) project in Malawi is an initiative supported by the UNC. In 2016, UNC project conducted the Girl Power study to assess whether a model of youth-friendly health services implemented in government clinics could improve service uptake in this population. The study compared three clinics that offered a model of YFHS to one that did not. Participants were followed for one year to monitor uptake and adherence to services. The results were 97% HIV testing, 82% condoms, and 54% contraception uptake, compared to the low numbers from the clinic that did not offer the services. The YFHS model proved to be effective in increasing uptake and adherence to sexual and reproductive health support and services. The programme provides services from a young person's perspective and addresses known barriers to care in youth dedicated spaces, separate from adults. Providers are trained in the YFHS approach to improve attitudes and peer educators are used to help young clients navigate health services as well as provide free services.

Gérard Niyondiko is an engineer and a social entrepreneur who studied chemistry. Watch the video
He is the co-founder of Maïa Africa, which aims to protect from malaria. MAÏA is the first vector control tool designed in Africa with the Malaria Research and Training Center in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and local women to protect vulnerable people by integrating it into their daily habits. The goal is to protect 20,000 people in the outlying areas of Ouagadougou with the long-lasting mosquito-repellent ointment over the course of 2019.

The lack of access to accurate, practical information and resources for women in Africa around menstruation is overwhelming. Watch the video
There are many taboos, stigmas, and restrictions attached to menstruation that restrict, shame, and diminish women. Disposable pads are unaffordable, poorly stocked and, if stocked, are of poor quality. Women are also often ashamed to purchase from male clerks. Also, most water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are inappropriate with no doors or locks, with no space to change and no water and soap to wash. This situation puts these women at greater risk for contracting diseases and infections.
Jennifer Rubli, born in Canada, is trying to change this. She works for Femme International, an NGO that operates in the East African region, as research and monitoring and evaluation coordinator. The organisation has successfully developed and implemented a comprehensive education-based intervention along with the distribution of reusable menstrual products.

Dr. Ime Asangansi holds a PhD in Information Systems from the University of Oslo, Norway and a medical degree (MBBS) from the University of Ibadan Nigeria. Watch the video
He is also an experienced software engineer and is the CEO of eHealth4everyone, the company through which he developed the ISS platform. The ISS platform integrates several checklists used by health partners when conducting integrative supportive supervision and makes this data easily accessible. The tool is web-based and can be used from a simple mobile device through an application. The solution is very easy to set up and can accommodate the input of data both online and offline. The solution enables GPS location, live signature and image capturing and storage, as well as the ability to download data and attachments for analysis and to accept or reject data submissions, as required.

Eunice Kamaara is a Professor at Moi University in Kenya with a doctorate in African Christian Ethics and MSc. in International Health Research Ethics. In 2004, she founded the African Character Initiation Programme (ACIP) with 4 university colleagues. The ACIP accompanies and empowers adolescents with information through their identity and sexual crises, to build their confidence and self-esteem and provides them with life skills and character values for successful transition to responsible adulthood. The community-based and participatory programme provides a one-stop source of information on adolescent realities in a context of modernization and information explosion. For sustainability, the programme is community-sponsored and owned with an inbuilt training of young programme alumni as future trainers. Over the last 13 years, the programme has directly impacted over 2000 boys and girls through workshops and camps and directly mentored over 1500 individual boys and girls. The ACIP has been tested in a multitude of areas within Kenya, as well as Malawi and Nepal.

Jacqueline Rogers is a South African entrepreneur with experience starting and growing enterprises related to pregnancy. She is the founder and Director of My Pregnancy Journey. My Pregnancy Journey is a locally relevant, well-researched and easy to use product which provides access to critical education and health material to educate, train and inform mothers on any issues they may be experiencing during pregnancy. The mobile application includes weekly baby size guides, gynaecologist and exercise videos, information of fetus growth and development, body and changes information, labour information, exercise techniques, nutrition tips, father and journal sections, daily articles, and other important information. A clinic card is also available on the app for users to document their tests and appointments that are needed for a healthy pregnancy and growing baby.

Dr. Imodoye Abioro is a medical doctor who graduated from the University of Ibadan. He is passionate about improving healthcare delivery in Nigeria, firmly believing in bridging the healthcare access gap with appropriate technology. He is the founder of Lend an Arm; a health information awareness campaign and youth-focused blood drive. Project Lend an Arm is an online and mobile based solution that will provide up-to-date, expert-authored, health information to all users, written in local language. It also connects voluntary blood donors to blood banks and hospitals within a community. Both platforms allowing for direct communication between these three critical partners in cases of emergency. The solution will be launched after an intensive health awareness campaign and serial blood drive. The project is currently working to build up an online community of highly motivated voluntary blood donors who will form a stable supply chain of blood products for meeting emergency healthcare needs, also hoping to be the go-to source for patients with NCDs seeking easy-to-understand information about their health condition. For the blood donation, the voluntary donors on the platform are trained and double as educators to help debunk misconceptions about blood donations and transfusions in their communities of origin.

Ephrem Bekele Woldeyesus has a background in mental health counselling and media. Since 2013, he has reached more than 10 million radio audiences through a weekly radio show on areas of wellness, youth and child development, reconciliation, peace, family therapy and mental health. He is the project designer and director of a social enterprise project Integrated Mental Wellness Programme where he uses social media to drive social change with an aggregate of more than 5 Million Facebook and YouTube engagements. Erk Mead Media and Communication is a pioneering centre in Ethiopia that offers social awareness, psychological therapy, psychosocial training for youth, couples and marriage counselling and support for children and families. The programme includes support offered through a bi-weekly radio show on mental health, depression, forgiveness therapy, reconciliation, trauma and child and women psychosocial health. Other support services include a range of support under a fee-based model. The initiative is a social enterprise and revenue from the radio show subsidizes the free mental health service for the community members. The programme addresses thousands of women, children and youth in group therapy setups, individual counselling, and different trainings for free. The radio programme has a reality show format and people come and share their true stories of mental and social health issues.

Dr. Misaki Wayengera is a Medical Doctor with Graduate Training in Immunology, Clinical Microbiology, and Vaccinology. He is fellow of the Human Genetics and Genomics Programme run by the US National Human Genome Research Institute. He has a PhD in Pathogen OMICS, and European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership-Post-Doc Fellowship in Filovirology (National Institute for Communicable Diseases-Johannesburg, SA). He is currently In-Charge of the unit of genetics and genomics at the Mulago Supra-National Reference Hospital in Kampala. Ebolavirus and Marburgvirus cause rare but fatal viral haemorrhagic fevers  in remote villages of equatorial Africa. Both filovirus VHF are highly infectious with potential for urban, regional and global spread. Early detection is important for VHF epidemic prevention and control. The Pan-Filovirus Rapid Diagnostic Test is premised on the identity of conserved epitopes of filovirus glycoprotein (GP) with potential for intra-genera differentiation. This test solution is currently undergoing testing and optimisation of various sample buffer reagents that unmask epitopes concealed by post-translational modifications. These rapid diagnostic tests could enable early detection and thereby control and prevention of VHFs at the point of care within village settings.

Dr. Doris Jema Onyeador is a qualified Optometrist and founder of Maldor, a Nigerian-based eyecare facility committed to providing affordable and quality eyecare services. The Maldor Gift of Sight programme provides quality eyecare and support to patients in low-income settings. Through the Gift of Sight Eyeclinic on Wheels model, the goal is to reach over 100,000 patients in the next 3 to 5 years using this innovative approach. Through this innovation, eyecare services, treatment, management, support and rehabilitation can reach even the remotest villages. The solution can reach and monitor eyecare in remote communities by scheduling clinic days to meet people where they are in a convenient, time saving and cost saving manner. The innovation will offer low-cost prescription eye glasses, medication and low-vision aids that solve problems such as poor sight and eye diseases. The solution will also serve patients who have lost their eyes through cancer and ocular accidents by fitting them with prosthetic eyes to help build their self-confidence.

The National Ambulance Service (NAS), an innovation by Denis Lee Oguzu, a legislator and technology entrepreneur from Uganda and a graduate student of Information Technology at Makerere University in Kampala, is a mobile, on-demand, hyper-local ambulance, police and fire service call and dispatch emergency system for Android and iOS. The innovation aggregates various types of private and public emergency services and allows the nearest required service to be dispatched immediately to the patient at the fastest possible time. It enables a registered user to initiate a request for ambulance and specify exact pickup and health facility drop off location of the patient. The technology also allows those without smart phones to call the emergency call centre and allows those unable to speak to request assistance through a chat/SMS. The platform has a built-in administration interface for system monitoring, maintenance and immediate trouble-shooting. Usage data will provide policy makers with 360 degree performance overview which can be used to inform and enhance the performance of emergency medical response. Customers can also book or schedule ambulance delivery for a future date and time through the app. Users will be able to get Real-Time alerts about their trip status through push and SMS notifications and can track the status of their dispatched provider on an interactive map to give real-time experience. Customers will be able to pay using multiple inclusive payment options such as mobile money, cash on delivery or even bank transfers,  and users can also rate their experience with providers which helps to improve the emergency response.

Laud Anthony Basing is a microbiologist based in Ghana. His PhD with Professor Yaw Adu-Sarkodie of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana focused on interventions to eradicate yaws, a skin disease which is endemic in Ghana. He is receiving his training in Biomedical Engineering at the Linnes Global Health Technologies Lab at Purdue University in Indiana. He is the founder of Incas Diagnostics, a company that produces point of care tests for Africa. The Rapid Molecular Test is a molecular-based point of care test solution for yaws. The current expensive and complicated equipment used for the test has been reduced into a much simpler device that can be easily and effectively administered in the field. A swab sample from the patient is mixed with the reagents provided in a test tube. The tube is then placed in a water bath for 30 minutes. The result is visual and indicated by the number of pink lines that are visible to the eye. WHO has earmarked yaws for eradication by 2020 and this test kit would greatly impact the yaws eradication drive in endemic countries.

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