Tanzania Daily News Dar es Salaam Hilda Mhagama
Displayed with permission from allAfrica.com

Some 14bn/- has over the past five years been spent in financing ideas and researches to improve Africa’s health amid increasing deaths of African women due to pregnancy and childhood complications.

The grant dubbed the ‘Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Seed Grants’ seeks to devise solutions and strategies for reduction of maternal, neonatal and child deaths in Africa.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-supported initiative was launched yesterday by the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), a programme of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS).

« Solutions for Africa’s challenges do exist within the continent as an African grant making body, we are focused on tapping the best minds on the continent to innovate the local solutions to our health and development challenges, » AESA’s Director Tom Kariuki, said.

He added, « We are seeking bold new ideas with potential for enormous impact in Africa, so that mothers and children not only survive, but thrive.

 » Dr Kariuki said the new funding was for innovators from anywhere on the continent with concrete ideas to increase chances of African mothers’ survival at childbirth, their newborns and children as well as inspire policy and decision makers to fund research and development.

The Grand Challenges Africa Grants will solicit ideas that can be developed into groundbreaking researches and innovations by providing up to 100,000 US dollars in seed grants for two years to each of the up to 40 projects.

The GC Africa Grants will fund innovators residing in Africa with any level of experience, working in any discipline in colleges, universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-governmental and non-profit organisations. Dr Kariuki said while great strides have been made in reducing mortality in Africa, maternal and neonatal mortality rates remain unacceptably high.

Programme Manager for Grand Challenges Africa, Dr Evelyn Gitau, said they also hope to motivate and mobilise government support towards increased investment in research and development for sustained development and commercialisation of solutions to transform the future.

« Africa has a wealth of talented innovators who can provide solutions when empowered and adequately funded, » she noted.

Estimates show that more than half of the global maternal deaths and over three-quarters of neonatal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa with more than half of maternal deaths directly or indirectly attributed to infectious causes such as HIV, malaria in pregnancy, sepsis and sexually transmitted diseases.

Infections and complications related to preterm births also account for 88 per cent of newborn deaths and the Sustainable Development Goal number three (SDG3) says that by 2030, the global maternal mortality ratio should be less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births.