L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science programme honours female 20 scientists


THE L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO have honoured five exceptional female scientists and 15 young scientists with the 2018 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards.

The L’Oréal Foundation has recognised five exceptional female scientists and 15 promising scientists in partnership with UNESCO and taken the initiative to improve the balance of women and men in science.

Each laureate will receive a prize of €100,000 and honored for her contribution in the fields of medicine, paleontology, molecular biology, ecology and developmental biology. Professor Heather Zar from the University of Cape Town and Red Cross Children’s Hospital has been honoured for establishing a cutting-edge research program on pneumonia, tuberculosis and asthma, saving the lives of many children worldwide.

“In contrast to the aging populations of wealthy, developed countries, in Africa, children make up almost 50% of the population.  Too many of them succumb to diseases that could be prevented or treated. Pneumonia affects 36 million children across Africa each year and is fatal in more than 700,000 children globally with nearly 60% of these deaths occurring in Africa” Heather Zar, said.

The rate of tuberculosis infection on the continent is among the highest in the world, and asthma affects between 10 and 20% of children.  Zar has dedicated her career to improving the diagnosis and treatment of these common causes of childhood illness and mortality in her native South Africa, “I have always felt a strong commitment to work in areas where there is a real need,” she said.

In a continent where resources are in short supply, Zar has adopted a pragmatic approach, focusing on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases with the greatest impact. She has developed simple tests to diagnose tuberculosis and pneumonia in children from spit and nasal swab samples, which have been integrated into global World Health Organisation, WHO, guidelines. She demonstrated that preventative use of a common tuberculosis treatment, the antibiotic “isoniazid,” reduced mortality by 50% and tuberculosis incidence by 70% in HIV-infected children who were not undergoing antiretroviral therapy.

Zar is committed to reducing health inequalities in the world. Her drive to become a scientist began the day her aunt and uncle brought her into their laboratory; her preoccupation with social justice came from her own parents. “Being a pediatrician and clinician-scientist combines my desire to advance knowledge with my need to improve children’s lives,” she reflected.

As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations, former award winners from across the world joined the move to support and empower female scientist who are addressing key issues.  Quarraisha Abdool Karim, 2016 Laureate, who was previously honoured for her contribution to HIV/Aids prevention in young girls, was also in attendance.  “It is spectacular to see the dedicated efforts and contributions women are making to societal transformation being showcased!” Abdool Karim said. “Notwithstanding, the programme now in its 20th year has demonstrated unequivocally the life changing cutting edge state of the art science that is both locally relevant and globally important being generated by women in all disciplines across the world.”

– Mar. 23, 2018 @ 17:10 GMT |

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