“MoSHE Stressed the Need to Diversify NIH Funding Schemes to Strengthen Ethio-US Collaborative Health Research in Ethiopia”
An international conference entitled “Building Critical Mass and Sustaining Health Research Capacity in Ethiopia: Training, Networking, Resource Stewardship, and Impact” was held from October 26-27, 2019 in Addis Ababa. It was organized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and Global One Health Initiative of Ohio State University (GOHi) in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (MoSHE) and Ministry of Health.
The opening session was graced by the attendance of dignitaries including Ambassador of USA to Ethiopia (Ambassador Michael Raynor), Director of NIH Fogarty International Center (Prof. Roger Glass), Vice President of Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (Prof. Montague Demment), Vice Provost for Global Strategies and International Affairs of The Ohio State University (Prof. Gil Latz), and Executive Director of GOHi of The Ohio State University (Prof Wondwossen Gebreyes), many distinguished researchers and winners of NIH grants, representatives from nine USA and ten Ethiopian Universities, different ministries, and research institutes.
During his opening remarks Prof. Afework Kassu, State Minister of MoSHE, highlighted the history of modern scientific academic research in general and that of health research in particular in Ethiopia. He said, “the establishment in 1942 of the then Medical Research Institute (now Ethiopian Public Health Institute) was pioneer in modern health research in Ethiopia; the opening of Public Health College & Training Center in 1954 in Gondar, with support from USAID via the Point Four Initiative, was another milestone for public health research; the establishment of Medical Faculty, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Institute of Pathobiology at Addis Ababa University over half a century ago were additional milestones for clinical, public health, biomedical, and one health research; half a century ago, the establishment of Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI) had laid a very strong foundation for collaborative biomedical researches in Ethiopia”.
Nevertheless, challenges like “poor research infrastructure, funding scarcity, weak dissemination, poor mentoring of young researchers, duplication of efforts, lack of focus and coordination, decoupling with industry, quality and relevance, limited collaboration and limited research management capacity are still hills to climb and are bottlenecks for research in Ethiopia.”
The State Minister also added that despite these challenges, in the past years, attention has been being given for research in Ethiopia which can be considered as opportunities. These include the “establishment of national science and technology research council; sectoral research councils (such as the Ethiopian Health Research Council); the emergence of professional associations supporting research and engaging in the dissemination of findings (Ethiopian Medical Association, Ethiopian Public Health Association, Ethiopia Pediatric Society, etc)”. In addition, the Government and institutions have been exerting a lot to strengthen research in general and health research in particular in Ethiopia, the State Minister said. The efforts, however, need to be further strengthened through partnerships and collaborations with overseas institutions and funding mechanisms, especially on capacity building for institutions, researches, systems, and others.
Prof Afework acknowledged the National Institute of Health of the USA as a very good archetypal of health research adherent. According to the State Minister, NIH so far has awarded 40 different grants for Ethiopia in different areas of health researches. They include the Medical Education Program Initiative (MEPI), GEOHealth, GOHi’s OHEART, Mental health, TB, Trachoma, Cancer, Malaria, and Ethics strengthening, to mention some.
In his concluding remarks, the State Minister emphasized the need for strengthened Ethio-US university to university and research institute partnerships for collaborative researches and requested NIH to consider a different package of support to strengthen health research in Ethiopia.