Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa

 The UKZN Infectious Diseases Cluster School in the College of Health Sciences hosted a seminar on the Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA) Initiative.

Acting Dean of Research in the College of Health Sciences Professor Moses Chimbari spoke on TIBA which is an Africa-led, wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary research programme that explores and draws lessons from the ways different African health systems tackle infectious diseases.

Chimbari, who holds a PhD in Schistosomiasis Control from the University of Copenhagen, is a Deputy Director at TIBA and a TIBASA project leader.

‘We are still on our first two-year cycle of TIBA and my key commission at this stage includes building a strong TIBA Team, establishing an African Chapter of the International Association for Ecology and Health (IAEH), rolling out CB courses, growing student numbers in this programme and recruiting more mentees,’ Chimbari told the seminar. ‘Most importantly, this programme will assist the UKZN College of Health Sciences in strengthening social cohesion, African health, and also in improving informatics and big data which are key components of our UKZN strategic direction.’

In the next four-year cycle of the programme, TIBA will shift the focus to bring IAEH to Africa and in so doing strengthen and localise the eco-health postgraduate situation, grow student numbers in the programme, produce a large number of South African graduates, and consolidate the programme and planning for the next five-year cycle.

TIBA will assist Africa by providing a better understanding of infectious disease transmission in different endemic areas, improving diagnostic tools and disease management programmes and strengthening health systems.

‘TIBA is an exciting initiative that provides a good prospect for impactful research collaborations. Our main TIBA question is: can Africans take a lead in finding solutions to the problems of Africa?,’ addressed Academic leader in the Discipline of Infectious Diseases in the School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences at UKZN, Professor Manormoney Pillay.

The TIBA initiative, which is supported by the African Academy of Sciences, the African Union and NEPAD, comprises UKZN, the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom; the Botswana Institute of Technology Research and Innovation at the University of Botswana; the Africa Centre of Excellence for Cell Biology and Infectious Pathogens at the University of Ghana; the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI); the University of Rwanda; the University of Khartoum in Sudan and the National Institute for Medical Research in Tanzania.

This African Health Initiative is aimed at harnessing the expertise and technical capabilities in biomedical and social sciences at the University of Edinburgh and among the African partners to reduce the burden and threat of infectious diseases in Africa by informing and influencing health policy and strengthening health systems through improving:

  • the diagnosis and surveillance of infectious diseases in resource-poor settings
  • the deployment of existing drug treatments and enhancing local capacity to develop new ones
  • the deployment of existing vaccines and enhancing local capacity to develop new ones
  • the management of endemic and epidemic infectious diseases such as schistosomiasis, malaria, trypanosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis and co-morbidities.

Words: Lihlithemba Sosibo