Three Ugandan health workers have made it to the final shortlist of the inaugural Women in Focus Awards that will take place in Geneva, Switzerland this week.
The awards celebrate the crucial role played by women in the on-going fight against neglected tropical diseases, a role which often goes unrecognised and unrewarded.
The three nominees are Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa (Kampala) who has dedicated her career for tackling NTDs in Uganda, Aciro Grace Oyat (Lamwo District), who started volunteering as a community drugs distributor and worked during the LRA insurgency in northern Uganda and Nancy Komakech, who is concerned about the detrimental effect that data has on identifying and testing Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
The health practitioners were all selected a judging panel for their outstanding role in fighting NTDs.
The three will be joining women from 11 countries across the globe today.
Tukahebwa, who has worked in the area of tracking NTDs for 20 years, has been shortlisted among the finalists of the Leadership Award. She is currently working in the Vector Control Division at the Ministry of Health in Uganda.
Ms Oyat, 54, has been shortlisted among the finalists of the Inspirational Award. Her competitors include Sabittri Rani Roy from Bangladesh, Brigitte Jordan from Spain and Birke Nigatu from Ethiopia. Ms Oyat began volunteering as a community drug distributor in 2007 and she was the only female working in hard to reach conflict affected areas.
Ms Komakech, who has championed treating NTDs, has been shortlisted among the finalists for the Community Champion Award. She is competing against Susan Nkirote Mbabu from Kenya, Sunita Devi from India and Agnes Ochai from Nigeria.
Dr Wendy Harrison the Chairperson of the Neglected Tropical Diseases NGDO Network (NNN) said that the Awards are celebrating women who are making a remarkable impact in treating NTDs in their communities.
“The Women in Focus Awards shine a light on women from all over the world who are working in their local communities, making a remarkable impact on tackling Neglected Tropical Diseases. One in seven people on the planet suffer from these diseases. That’s more than the entire population of Europe,” Dr Harrison said.
“Every day women all around the world are making crucial contributions to help defeat them and this is our chance to celebrate and acknowledge their vital role. We were blown away by the standard of entries and delighted to be honoring these truly remarkable women from Uganda,” he added.
According to the End Fund, an NGO that fights NTDs, the diseases are a group of parasitic and bacterial infectious diseases that affect over 1.5 billion of the world’s most impoverished people, including 875 million children.
They cause severe pain, long-term disability, and are the cause of death for over 170,000 people per year. Amongst children, infection leads to malnutrition, cognitive impairment, stunted growth, and the inability to attend school.
In Uganda, a survey conducted by the Malaria consortium showed that among the common NTDs are Trachoma, Buruli ulcer, Leprosy and River blindness.
According to Dr Godfrey Magumba, the Director Malaria consortium Uganda, they did a survey in Uganda about the state of NTD’S and they discovered that the diseases greatly affect the marginalised groups.