Africa is burdened with infectious diseases, nutritional deficiencies, high maternal, newborn, and infant mortality, diabetes, cancer, as well as genetic and metabolic diseases. Africa as a continent suffers disproportionately from these problems and has done very little to harness her resources – human and material – to solve them.
There are reasons for hope - Africa is undergoing significant improvements in population health, which is evident from declining infant mortality rates, plummeting HIV/AIDS fatality rates, and rising life spans. These gains are attributed to improved vaccination coverage, malaria interventions such as bed nets, antiretroviral therapy for HIV, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. However, Africa is still being challenged with diseases like malaria, sickle cell anaemia (SCA), and cancer. The cases and deaths remain unacceptably high and are resurgent in several settings.
A major problem in combating diseases like malaria and SCA is that they predominantly affect the global south. For a long time, the leading universities, medical science institutes and the pharma industry were located in the global north and were not interested enough in “diseases of the south”. There have been efforts to close this knowledge gap, and we want to contribute further to gaining knowledge on the pathology of these diseases as well as finding new treatment strategies and bringing them to the people that need those treatments the most.
Nonetheless, there is also a trend where diseases that previously mainly affected wealthy countries now are also a major burden on the African continent. This includes diabetes and metabolic diseases, but also cancer. Cancer is now the fifth leading cause of death in Africa, which warrants further investigation. The most common cancers on the continent are cancers of the cervix, breast, liver, and prostate as well as Kaposi's sarcoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. However, we still don’t know much about the epidemiology and aetiology of cancer in Africa, for example why some types seem to occur more frequently here compared to other continents. It should be a priority to find the most common causes of morbidity and mortality and concentrate on finding treatments that can be administered in cities as well as rural regions on the continent. Additionally, implementing prevention strategies for early detection is essential.
Asides from the research of the most common diseases and their treatment, the implementation of knowledge is something that we are very interested in. Africa needs well-trained doctors and medical staff, and modern, well-equipped hospitals to provide state-of-the-art medical care. The capacity of health care is especially precarious in rural regions, where we are looking to find innovative strategies to bring medical treatment to even the most secluded areas.
The disease burden in Africa is devastating since it affects all components of human development, including income, health, and education. The impact of diseases on African countries is no longer a crisis only for the healthcare sector but presents a challenge to all sectors. Human resources are lost due to high child mortality, malaria, sickle cell anaemia, and cancer. The African continent is no doubt the most resource-abundant continent. Investment in human resources yields a return and it is done through education, training, and healthcare.
This would lead to a lessening of disease burden and socioeconomic strains on individuals, families, communities, government, and society as a whole. For this reason, RAAI's Medicine, Public Health, and Life Sciences Forum seeks to partner with a network of institutions both in Africa and Europe to establish state-of-the-art research facilities in Africa and to drive the involvement of Africa as an active participant in world development; especially in relation to Drug Development, Public Health Care, Characterization of Active Biomolecules and early detection, prevention, and treatment of diseases such as cancer, sickle cell disease and, malaria.
If you want to take part in one of our projects or start your own, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.