Highlighted: Capacity building for Female Scientist in East Africa (CaFe-SEA)
The Capacity building for Female Scientist in East Africa (CaFe-SEA) project funded by the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in partnership with EDCTP is supporting female PhD scientists in Eastern Africa focusing on emerging and remerging infections. The first five candidates have been selected and will start their training. The programme will include specific courses prescribed by the enrolling universities in Eastern Africa and will be coordinated through the existing EACCR Network.
Pontiano Kaleebu, coordinator of EACCR’s CaFe-SEA project: “This project aims to build capacity for research among junior female scientists which for long has remained a challenge in the region. We proudly support five fellowship candidates and believe they will become future research leaders.”
Highlighted: Promoting a gender perspective in ethics review
Building the capacities of West Africa in research ethics (BCA-WA-ETHICS-II) is one of the projects supported by EDCTP from the earliest phases that aims to increase equitable inclusion of women in clinical trials and socio-epidemiological studies through gender mainstreaming in health research ethics. The project supports ethical research regulators and evaluators such as National Research Ethics Committees (NRECs) and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in research protocol appraisal using sex- and gender-based analysis. The project also created a free-of-charge Virtual Research Ethics Secretariat providing technical assistance to the NRECs of the 15 West African countries through webinars, workshops, and sex- and gender-sensitive research protocol evaluation tools. In collaboration with the Benin NREC, the project has published a White Book of Recommendations for Gender Mainstreaming in National Research Ethics Committees in West Africa which contains hands-on guidelines for gender equality planning and sex- and gender appraisal in research protocols.
Farah Nabil, Project Manager of the BCA-WA-ETHICS II project: “Gender mainstreaming in health research goes beyond the systematic inclusion of women in clinical trials. It also means taking into account how existing gender inequalities affect women’s access to and uptake of health care interventions. We call on all ethics committees to include gender mainstreaming as a standard consideration in their reviews and procedures. Ethics committees are in a position to end the conduct of sex- and gender-blind research. The White Book can assist ethics committees in this process. It takes a lot of time, effort and capacity building to achieve gender equity, but in the end, it will lead us towards sustainable development of West African populations and health for all.”
Highlighted: COVID-19 in pregnant women
Very little is known about the specific impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women: whether the virus can be transmitted to babies in the womb, and whether maternal antibodies might be transferred across the placenta. This is particularly the case in sub-Saharan Africa, where infection with HIV, TB, syphilis or malaria could add further complications. Moreover, maternal and neonatal mortality rates are still high, and only around half of mothers receive the recommended four antenatal health visits. The periCOVID-Africa project is generating vital data on COVID-19 infections in pregnant women and their babies in sub-Saharan Africa.
The project builds on the EDCTP-funded PREPARE study which follows up 70,000 women in Uganda from the early stages of pregnancy and infants up to the age of three months to gain a clearer picture of the burden of group B streptococcus infections and to establish surveillance mechanisms. The project will evaluate two vaccines against group B streptococcus at a trial site in Uganda, being developed under EDCTP funding. The partners in this PREPARE study have extended their network of collaborators to Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Norway and The Gambia to assess existing pregnancy and neonatal cohorts in these countries to better understand COVID-19 impacts on pregnancy and immune responses in mothers and babies.
Kirsty Le Doare, chief investigator of the periCOVID and PREPARE projects: “The PREPARE study aims to put pregnant women front and centre of clinical vaccine trials by working with women to design and conduct studies equitably and ethically. It’s by involving women every step of the way that I believe we can achieve equity in health.”
Philippa Musoke, principal investigator of the PREPARE and periCOVID studies in Uganda: “The PREPARE study works with pregnant and breastfeeding women to develop and undertake clinical vaccine trials to improve maternal and child health globally. I am happy that we can build on this work and gain more insights in women’s health through the periCOVID-Africa project.”