The UWC experience is not just about academics and internationalism, it also instils in pupils the importance of serving society and fighting for a more equal world.
Pedro Alonso, (AC 75-77) is a doctor in Mozambique and founder of the Manhiça Health Research Centre. In 2003, this Research Centre was awarded a substantial sum of money by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Malaria is the biggest killer of children in Africa, claiming the lives of about 3,000 children under five years old every day. It causes more than 900,000 deaths in Africa every year.
Mozambique is considered to be a hot spot – in some parts of the country, nine out of ten children younger than age five are infected with the mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria. That's why, in 1996, Dr Pedro Alonso founded the Manhiça Health Research Centre.
The Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM) was set up in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Mozambique and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation, and is the first research centre in rural Mozambique which aims to improve health and promote development through the provision of healthcare, scientific and technical training and research into priority health issues.
The cornerstone of Pedro’s research activity has been – and continues to be – the development and testing of new control tools against malaria. He was involved in the first trials of insecticide-treated bed nets, documenting their impact on mortality, as well as the first-phase clinical trials of a potential malaria vaccine in Africa, and the evaluation of new drugs and drug-combinations to inform policy decisions on first-line treatment.
”Malaria is a deadly disease which is both a cause and consequence of poverty,” says Pedro. “It causes suffering, death and huge economic losses. The development of a malaria vaccine, even if only partly effective, would have a huge impact.”
In 2003, Bill Gates, visited the Manhiça Health Research Centre and announced a substantial donation to the centre from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This generous donation is just one of the contributions which have enabled the development of a new malaria vaccine, currently undergoing trials.
The next step, says Pedro, is to test the vaccine in children younger than one year old. Then the trials will be expanded into other countries. ”If all goes well,” he says, “we should have an approved vaccine by 2010.”
Pedro emphasises “Our progress has been made possible by a very diverse group of people: from laboratories, to philanthropists, multinationals and universities. The input from this diverse group, together with a high degree of specialist knowledge, has been crucial in the development of the vaccine.
“Studying at UWC gave me the opportunity to meet students of many different nationalities and cultures, this experience has been important in shaping my approach to my work. And the UWC experience is not just about academics and internationalism, it also instils in pupils the importance of serving society and fighting for a more equal world.”