On 19 April, the inaugural Women in Focus Awards took place in Geneva, Switzerland celebrating the crucial role women play in the ongoing fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases, a role which often goes unrecognized and unrewarded.
The Women in Focus Leadership Award was presented in dedication to the memory ofDr Likezo Mubila, a Zambian public health expert who sadly passed away at home in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2011.
Dr Likezo Mubila was dedicated to the fight against neglected tropical diseases. These are diseases that affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world, mainly in Africa. She worked for the Department of Biology at the University of Zambia prior to joining the World Health Organization's Regional Office for Africa in 2001 as the focal point for lymphatic filariasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and schistosomiasis, three of five most prevalent NTDs in Africa. Today, many countries in Africa, are reaching elimination targets and moving their populations out of poverty, towards the path of prosperity. Togo recently joined the growing list of countries that have eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health programme, becoming the first country in Saharan Africa to eliminate LF.
It is through the personal dedication and the groundwork that Dr Mubila laid, in the establishment of the NTD program at WHO AFRO, that we are now seeing such tremendous progress in the fight against NTDs in Africa. We owe much of this progress to Dr Mubila and we are delighted to be honoring her contribution through the launch of this award.
Edridah Muheki from Uganda was delighted to be the first ever recipient of the Women in Focus Leadership award in honour of Likezo Mubila. On receiving her award she said:
“I am so encouraged by this recognition and feel highly appreciated. This is such an amazing incentive because it mirrors the teamwork we have built in Uganda as an NTD family. I am very grateful to have been nominated and to the people who decided I should win.”
As 2017 marks the 5th anniversary of the World Health Organization’s roadmap on NTDs and the London Declaration, the awards celebrate this milestone by shining a light on the inspirational women helping to control, eliminate and eradicate 10 neglected tropical diseases.
Dr. Julie Jacobson, Chair of the stakeholders working group of Uniting to Combat NTDs), says: “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 just as Dr Likezo Mubila did. One in seven people on the planet suffer from these diseases. That’s more than the entire population of Europe. 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