The Africa University Malaria Research Unit under the College of Health, Agriculture and Natural Sciences has won a research grant of USD 1.5 million from USAID in a game changing project that is set to establish a center of excellence in entomology at Africa University and position the institution at the forefront of frontier research in the field. Under the Zimbabwe Entomological Support Programme in Malaria (ZENTO), the Malaria Research Unit shall strengthen the quality and increase the quantity of entomological evidence for guiding malaria control operations by the National Malaria Control Programme of the Ministry of Health and Child Care in Zimbabwe (MOHCC) and its partners.
Spanning a 3- year period, the project will establish a new malaria entomological surveillance programme in the Mutasa and Nyanga districts with more areas being included as the programme takes shape. ZENTO will be working closely with the MOHCC in a timely intervention to help decrease the Malaria burden in high risk areas with success serving as a reference point for replication of solutions in other provinces. CHANS Dean, Professor Sungano Maharkurwa said of the project,
“The programming, research and innovation that comes with ZENTO will contribute new approaches and lessons on the control and elimination of the deadly malaria scourge that has a greater than 90% stronghold in the African region compared to the rest of the world. This grant is of special importance to Africa University as it brings a substantial scale of funding and capacity development that will leapfrog the institution towards novel niches of research and innovation for solutions in line with Education 5.0 . Secondly, this is the first time our funders have supported a university, which places us in a unique head start position relative to other institutions. “
In addition to the USD 1.5 million dollar USAID grant, Professor Maharakurwa has been awarded a USD 5o0 000 Fogarty Emerging Global Leader Grant which is a highly competitive award designed to provide research support to skilled and talented researchers from developing nations. Prof. Mharakurwa said of the award,
“This grant is awarded to scientists with a strong training, research and publication record who are set to transition to the level of global research leader. I am fortunate to have met these criteria based on my contributions to malaria research to date and the vision I am gearing towards which is to become a global malaria translational research leader and innovator based at Africa University. It will afford a strong opportunity to establish vibrant international collaborations, regional training programmes, undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral learning and research opportunities for the college and its students. ”
Speaking to the impact that his research shall have and contribute towards the continental discourse on Malaria, he went on to say,
“I am embarking on targeted advanced training and a research programme that will employ molecular and field approaches to understand the seasonal distribution, determinants and characteristics of parasites, vectors and humans associated with urban malaria invasion into Mutare City of Zimbabwe in order to identify strategies for reclaiming zero transmission. Strategies and lessons emanating from the research would be valuable in restoring malaria-free status to Mutare and other cities of Zimbabwe and the African region in line with the goal of malaria elimination. That would be a major improvement in the health of our communities in Africa who bear the brunt of illness and mortality from malaria every year – approximately 219 million and 409000, respectively, according to latest WHO global estimates, more than 90% being in Africa.”