Human African trypanosomiasis

WHO and partners acknowledge pivotal role of nurses and technicians in the control of human African trypanosomiasis

08 October 2010 | Cotonou

Retired nurses and laboratory technicians from five Western African countries who once worked in the daily systematic screening and treatment of patients for human African trypanosomiasis (also called sleeping sickness) have been rewarded for their tireless dedication.

Since the beginning of the last century, successive generations of the surveillance and control staff of a dedicated mobile team have travelled through remote and inaccessible areas where sleeping sickness is endemic in order to diagnose and treat patients, carrying with them cumbersome and complicated-to-use diagnostic tools.

"This is a token of recognition for the courageous men and women who brave all the difficulties to access the remotest regions to treat people suffering from sleeping sickness", said Dr Pere Simarro, Medical Officer in charge of the WHO Programme on Human African Trypanosomiasis.

Eight representatives from six endemic countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali and Togo – received a WHO certificate of recognition, a watch from sanofi-aventis and a flashlight from the Association against Trypanosomiasis in Africa. Similar recognition programmes are planned during future sub-regional meetings in disease endemic countries.

"The watch symbolizes the time spent in relieving human suffering and the flashlight represents the enlightened training these men and women provide to the new generation of technicians to ensure sustainable success against sleeping sickness", added Dr Simarro.

The symposium was organized by the Ministry of Health of Benin in partnership with the Centre de Recherche Entomologique de Cotonou, the Faculté des Sciences de la de la Santé de l’Université d’Abomey-Calavi and the Centre International de Recherche-Développement sur l’Elevage en zone Subhumide.

The aim of the symposium was to identify new priorities for research and training in prevention and control of malaria and human African trypanosomiasis, and to facilitate north–south scientific exchanges in entomology, epidemiology, immunology and parasitology. The two-day meeting brought together researchers, students, decision-makers, public health operators and representatives from industry.

The ceremony took place during an international symposium entitled “Malaria and human African trypanosomiasis: new prevention and control strategies” at the Palais de Congres in Cotonou, Benin, on 7–8 October 2010.