Populations in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) continue to face a huge burden of high prevalence of communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria which expose them to outbreaks of Cholera, Ebola among others, with the situation being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Success in the fight against these diseases is mostly hindered by either unavailability or scarcity of reliable epidemiological data and a shortage of skilled personnel in epidemiology and biostatistics who are required to conduct surveillance, public health research and timely response to disease outbreaks.
To address this, the European Union (EU) has funded, a project dubbed: “Strengthening Capacity for Epidemics Preparedness and Response in sub-Saharan Africa (SCEPRESSA)” that seeks to develop the capacity for disease outbreak and epidemic response among public health professionals in sub-Saharan Africa.
The SCEPRESSA project, which is funded under the Second European and Developing Countries and Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP2) programme, will provide postgraduate training scholarships to 15 public health professionals drawn from the SSA countries. The 15 will undertake a competency-based Master of Science in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
The training will be offered at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology’s College of Health Sciences (COHES) in the Public Health Department.
Speaking during the project inception meeting on Wednesday, October 27, 2021, the Project Coordinator, Prof. Gideon Kikuvi, said the project has already received funding to the tune of KES 70 million.
“We have already received Ksh. 70,613, 301.03 (£ 548,055.19) which is equivalent to 73.88% of total being a budget for the first 24 months,” he revealed.
“The project has already attracted 351 applications from 17 countries most of which are from Kenya, Malawi and Uganda,” he stated.
On his part, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics) Prof. Robert Kinyua said JKUAT prides itself in being a university of excellence in teaching, research and innovation as evidenced by the high number of both local and international students it has attracted over the years.
Prof. Kinyua who was represented by the Registrar, Academic Affairs, Dr. Esther Mworia, hailed the existing collaborations with both local and international training and research institutions in the field of health, noting that through this arrangement, the institutions have played synergistic roles to produce professionals at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.”
“The SCEPRESSA project is one such collaboration between JKUAT, Kamuzu University of Health Sciences- Malawi, Tropical Institute of Community Health and Development (TICH), Kenya and the Ministry of Health,” he stated.
The Ministry of Health sincerely acknowledged the European Union for funding SCEPRESSA which will provide scholarships to public health scholars in the highly specialized area of Master of Science in Epidemiology and Biostatistics (MScEpiBio).
“MOH, being one of the key partners is ready to offer trainings, field practicums placement & supervision by Ministry officials, research, seminars, conferences, to the scholars,” said Mr. Onesmus Kamau from the MOH.
EDCTP Africa Representative, Ms. Nuraan Fakier said, the EU is excited to fund the project and congratulated the JKUAT team for the good work that has been done.
The event was also attended by Prof. Simon Karanja, Dean School of Public Health, Prof. Naomi Maina, Director, Grants Management, Dr. Patrick Mbindyo who represented DVC Research, Production and Extension, Dr. Susan Mambo, Chair of Department Public Health, Dr. Charles Wafula of the Tropical Institute for Community Health (TICH) and Prof. Kamija Phiri from Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, in Malawi.