*Feature photo by Nicholas Kajoba/Xinhua
As the world commemorated International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Thursday, female scientists in Uganda are championing the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grace Nambatya Kyeyune, one of the top female scientists in the country leading the clinical trial of a locally-developed drug to treat COVID-19, said on Wednesday she feels great to lead the team.
“I feel great that I am in lead of a multi-skilled team of scientists: medical doctors, pharmacists, chemists, laboratory technologists, botanists, sociologists … as principal investigator into a natural formulation used by our communities for over 20 years against viral challenges,” Nambatya told Xinhua in an interview.
She said an assessment of the formulation’s safety and efficacy in adult humans 18-70 years of age is currently taking place at the country’s Mulago National Referral Hospital.
“This is history in the making and a milestone prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nambatya said.
The country’s president Yoweri Museveni on Jan. 28 launched the clinical trial of the drug involving 128 COVID-19 patients admitted to the Mulago National Referral Hospital.
Besides finding medical solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nambatya, as director of the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Institute, championed the use of natural or herbal medicine in the country.
Nambatya said she was inspired by Monica Musenero, another female scientist championing the country’s fight against the pandemic, managing 23 projects of test kits, vaccines and therapeutics, all as homegrown solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Musenero is the presidential advisor on epidemics and current chairperson of the Presidential Scientific Initiative on Epidemics (PRESIDE). The PRESIDE consists of the country’s top scientists who advise the president on measures needed to combat epidemics.
Sabrina Kitaka, a renowned pediatrician, is another scientist involved in the fight against COVID-19 especially among children.
“Specifically for the COVID-19 pandemic, I have written manuscripts, opinion on my social media pages to educate the public and sensitize them on the Standard Operating Procedures,” Kitaka told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday.
Kitaka, carrying out part of research on the impact of COVID-19 on common childhood illness, is a member of the Uganda National Immunization Technical and Advisory Group, which contributes to developing a locally-made COVID-19 vaccine.
More female professionals from other sectors are also striving to combat the pandemic.
Sawuya Namawejje, 35, is a nurse at Kasangati Health Center IV in the central district of Wakiso. She is the focal person of the health center’s committee on COVID-19.
“Initially the health center was not handling COVID-19 patients, but when many cases were reported, the center was upgraded to handle some of the cases,” Namawejje told Xinhua in an interview.
She said many people who tested positive for COVID-19 with no signs and symptoms came to the center, while those with severe signs and symptoms were sent to Mulago National Referral Hospital for further treatment.
“We still get people visiting the health center without wearing face masks. But most times we have put up stringent measures not to allow them inside,” Namawejje said.
Apart from COVID-19 testing, the health center offers other services like treatment of malaria, offering HIV testing and counseling, she said.
Uganda is grappling with the pandemic with most of its health facilities overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, according to the country’s ministry of health.
Figures from the ministry showed that as of Tuesday, the country had registered a cumulative total of 39,911 COVID-19 cases, 14,470 recoveries and 328 related deaths.