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Nigerian Bags Thai Award

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Uche Amazigo, a Nigerian expert in public health whose research finding have helped in the treatment of river blindness in Africa has won the prestigious Prince Mahidol Award

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Dec. 10, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

UCHE Amazigo, a renowned Nigerian scientist, and former senior lecturer, has won this year prestigious Prince Mahidol award in public health. A total of 75 medical personnel and scientists from 34 countries across the world, were nominated for the awards.

Amazigo, who holds a Ph.D. in Biology and Medical Parasitology from the University of Vienna in Austria, clinched the coveted prize in the public health category, while Britain’s Sir Michael David Rawlins, chairman of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), won in the field of medicine.

The awards are given by the Thai Royal Family annually for outstanding achievements in medicine and public health worldwide and each awardee, receives a $100,000 cash prize. The award is in recognition of Amazio’s contribution to the successful community directed treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI) strategy used by the World Health Organizatio, WHO, for the control of Onchocerciasis or river blindness.

The success of the CDTI approach, resulted from linking research and management strategies to empower communities to fully participate and take charge of their health care delivery system.

The method was adopted from Amazigo’s research work in 1990, which provided the scientific basis for the establishment of the WHO’s African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (WHO/APOC), with headquarters in Burkina Faso. This allows the laudable CTDI programme to be run by Africans for Africans, where the disease has been a major cause of blindness and skin disease with unrelenting itching, in many African countries.

A recipient of the distinguished Medal of “Knight of the National Order of Burkina Faso” in 2011, Amazigo said she was humbled by the award, and that she would receive it on behalf of African communities and those who had contributed services, materials and cash towards the success of the programme. “The money from the award will be used to expand the philosophy of CDI - community-directed school health and feeding programme in resource poor settings in Nigeria,” she said.

Having worked within WHO/APOC management since inception in 1996, Amazigo became the programme’s first female director in 2005, and was on that post until she retired in April 2011. Since the announcement of the awards, accolades have been pouring in for Amazigo for her unique achievement. A Washington D.C.-based Sabin Vaccine Institute, a non-profit organisation made up of scientists, researchers, and advocates, described Amazigo as “a champion for NTD (Neglected Tropical Diseases) control and elimination in Africa.”

Onyeka Onwenu, a renowned Nigerian artist, described the awardee as “a magnificent human being; a humble innovator with a strong passion and commitment to good causes.” Only recently, Amazigo was honoured by the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, and the National Medical Research Institute of Tanzania for her immense contributions to public health management, while WHO/APOC received the One-million-Euro António Champalimaud Vision Award 2011, the biggest global award for outstanding contributions to the prevention of visual impairment and blindness.

Amazigo also trained in tropical medicine and parasitology at the Bernhard-Nocht Institute of Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, and she also got a fellowship in International Health from Harvard School of Public Health, United States. Amazigo and Sir Michael will receive their awards at a ceremony in Thailand in January 2013.

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