The French government has awarded €30,000 research grants to five Nigerian universities to support innovative health research projects.
Hayward Mafuyaih, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Jos, said the grant would enable them “get to more sentinel sites” in Plateau State.
“We will now be able to take statewide sentinel data that is more robust that will give us precise accuracy in terms of what we are measuring,” said Mr Mafuyaih, a professor of public health, entomology, and parasitology at the university and one of the beneficiaries of the grant.
Mr Mafuyaih and his team worked on the project ‘Web-based Malaria Information System (Web-MIS).’
The other researchers, who also came up with various health-focused research, are from Obafemi Awolowo University; University of Lagos; University of Ibadan; and Bayero University Kano.
Omolola Irinoye, the community public health practitioner at the Obafemi Awolowo University, said the fund is a breakthrough for her group. She said it will help them approach their intervention holistically as against in bits as they had been doing.
Her project was titled ‘E-health systems for strengthening health literacy, promotion, screening and health care access for population groups in Osun State.’
“For many of the diseases killing our people, if they have information, many things can be done to prevent, detect early and to manage effectively if they have access to people they can talk to very freely,” she said.
The universities received the awards under the Solidarity Fund for Innovative Projects, an initiative of the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs which was launched in 2021, aimed at supporting the Research Capacity Building in Higher Education.
Every two years, the French government focuses on a theme and awards innovative projects.
In 2021, it chose a theme “Research in Health, Innovation, Information and Artificial Intelligence” which aims to apply digital innovations to today’s challenges in the Nigerian healthcare system.
According to Emmanuelle Blatmann, the French Ambassador to Nigeria, the Solidarity Fund aims to help cooperation, and foster relationships, and partnerships with foreign universities.
She added that the primary goal for providing the funds is to help Nigerian universities upscale their programmes, knowing that funding is difficult even in France.
“We consider it important that they get help from us,” she said.
“We also consider academic cooperation as crucial for the strengthening of the relationship between Nigeria and France.”
Ms Blatmann added that it is also a great way to improve mutual knowledge between the two countries.
“Because sometimes there are a lot of false images about Africa and this is also what we are looking into. However, the idea for health here is to help improve and consolidate health systems in Nigeria,” she said.
The other recipients of the award include Patrick Okonji, the Principal Investigator for the UNILAG project, ‘A Telemedicine Approach for Equitable Access to Quality Eye Care in Remote Rural Areas of Lagos, Nigeria.’
Mr Okonji dedicated the award to the visually impaired whom his work looks to support.
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Oluyemisi Folasire, from the University of Ibadan, is another recipient of the award. Her group’s project focused on ‘Gestational Blood Sugar Tracker (GBST): An innovative method for the detection, prevention and treatment of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM).’
Ms Folasire said the project aims to improve the lives of women and children by encouraging healthy food consumption and healthy weight loss, which reduces the chances of Gestational Diabetes.
Another recipient, Amir Bature, the Principal Investigator for the Bayero University Kano, where they worked on ‘Detection of Malaria Parasite in Blood Smear Microscopy using Artificial Intelligence.’
Sonny Echono, Executive Secretary, TETFUND, thanked the French embassy for a “demonstration of very cordial bilateral relations between our countries and their interest in promoting research.”
He noted that the awards from the French government compliments and also speak to the current focus of TETFUND to promote research and development in Nigeria.
“Research in healthcare tends to have a direct impact on the livelihood, standard of living and health conditions of our people,” he said.
“And we hope the recipients of the award will use this opportunity not only to expand the frontiers of knowledge but come up with impactful findings that will revamp our healthcare delivery system,” Mr Echono said.
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