Ghana to host the Federation of African Medical Physics Organizations Secretariat

The Council of the Federation of African Medical Physics Organizations (FAMPO) has selected Ghana as the host country for its Secretariat.

The decision, which received a unanimous endorsement among 30 African national member organizations was announced on April 28, 2021, during its Extraordinary Meeting held via a virtual platform.

The core mandate of the Secretariat will be to coordinate activities of the Federation in ensuring the promotion of medical physics in Africa.

FAMPO is a regional federation of the International Organizations for Medical Physics (IOMP) in Africa, established in 2009, to ensure high professional standards among national member organizations, promote collaboration and innovation through partnerships with organizations and academia, and promote talent, information, and ideas that lead to great advances in the medical application of radiation.

National Member organizations of FAMPO include, Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, and Mauritania.

The rest are Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The Vice President for the Executive Committee of FAMPO, Dr. Francis Hasford.

According to the Vice President of the Executive Committee of FAMPO, Dr. Francis Hasford, Ghana got the nod from national member organizations because of its exceptional achievements in education, training, and professional practice of Medical Physics.

“The immense contribution of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission in this regard cannot go unmentioned,” he added.

Dr. Hasford, who is also the Head of the Medical Physics Department at the Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (SNAS), explained that Ghana as the host of the Medical Physics Secretariat in the African Region was a confirmation of the country becoming a regional hub for Medical Physics.

“It is highly anticipated that the placement of FAMPO Secretariat in Ghana will further contribute to attracting Medical Physics students from other African countries to study at SNAS and also attract key projects in radiation medicine to the country,” he said.

Dr. Hasford disclosed that plans were far advanced to acquire an office space for the Secretariat. He also noted that the Council of FAMPO in its communique described Ghana as a leader in medical physics practice and training within the African region.

“Ghana is one of the few countries within the region with legislative recognition for the profession. It is anticipated that the experiences of Ghana will be put to bare in managing this very important Secretariat,” he added.

By: CPRC/CCD/GAEC

Study Shows ‘Super’ Resistance to Insecticides Among Mosquitoes in a Small Cocoa Growing Village in Ashanti Region – GAEC

Research conducted by the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has revealed extreme resistance to insecticides among Anopheles mosquitoes in a small cocoa growing village of the Ashanti Region.

The research conducted at Atatam in the Adansi Asokwa District of the Ashanti Region showed that there were two major malaria vectors, one dominating during the dry season and the other during the rainy season. Unlike in many communities, where there is only one transmission season, usually the rainy season.

The Director of BNARI, Dr. Michael Osae, made this known when he shared the findings with the Chief and people of Atatam last Wednesday, at a Malaria Awareness Campaign to commemorate this year’s World Malaria Day.

The campaign dubbed, ‘Zero Malaria – Draw the line against Malaria’, was organized by BNARI, in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ghana Education Service (GES), and AngloGold Ashanti Malaria Control (AGAMal). As part of the programme, the people of Atatam were screened and treated against the malaria parasite.

Personnel of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) screening and treating school pupil against malaria

According to the Director, research was ongoing to proffer alternative tools that could fight the malaria vectors or prevent further resistance to maintain the effectiveness of existing vector control interventions.

“Our research found out that there are two main types of malaria-causing mosquitoes in the Atatam Community – Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles funestus. The populations of both species have high resistance to all classes of insecticides – organophosphates, organochlorines, pyrethroids, and carbamates recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for public health use” he added.

He indicated that the ‘super’ resistance to insecticides may be due to the use of pesticides by the people of Atatam on their cocoa farms, and said the research showed that Atatam was a malaria-endemic community, with a heavy infestation of mosquitoes all year round.

Dr. Osae thanked partners and sponsors as well as the Chief and people of Atatam for supporting the institute’s research activities and the malaria awareness campaign.

The Director of Ghana Health Service (GHS) of Adansi Asokwa District, Mr. David Kunta gave some lessons on the behavior of mosquitoes and the dangers it poses to people and added that malaria was on the ascendency in the District.

He revealed that malaria topped all hospital cases with 32.5 percent for the year 2020. “Malaria cases for the first quarter of 2021 also stands at 34 percent as we speak,” he added.

Mr. David Kunta therefore, urged the people to always use an insecticide-treated mosquito net to help prevent mosquito bites and report immediately to the clinic for healthcare whenever they are unwell.

The Social and Behavioural Change Manager of AngloGold Ashanti Malaria Control Limited (AGAMaL), Mrs. Alberta Gordon Bosomtwe, who represented the Program Director, called for a united effort and active involvement of everybody to bring the disease under control.

“The disease, if not brought under control can affect the school performance of pupils, reduce productivity at workplaces through absenteeism, as work-hours are lost, among others,” she noted.

The Coordinator for the School Health Education Programme (SHEP) of GES, Mr. Columbus Ewusie, representing the Director of Ghana Education Service (GES) expressed gratitude for the selection of the school in the District for the occasion.

“The District is always ready to support such programmes that target the health and wellness of its pupils,” he added.

As part of the campaign, the people of Atatam were screened for malaria and those who tested positive treated. In all, 125 people were screened, with 68 (54.4%) testing positive for malaria. This level of malaria prevalence is far higher than the regional and national prevalence of 15% and 16% respectively. This calls for concerted efforts from all stakeholders, if we must remain on track for the zero-malaria agenda.

By: CPRC/CCD/GAEC

Nuclear Techniques for the Zero Malaria Agenda

A few days ago, World Malaria Day was marked, to let people know of the world’s efforts to control and ultimately eradicate malaria. The day which is observed annually on 25th April remains more relevant than ever before since Malaria still exists in more than 100 countries worldwide, with nearly half of the world’s population at risk (Global Health, Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, 2021).

 

Ekene Kwabena Nwaefuna: Assistant Research Scientist Biotechnology Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the countries with the highest number of cases are India, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, and Tanzania. These countries account for 70% of the global malaria cases and 71% of global estimated deaths from malaria. In 2019, the Africa Region was home to 94% of malaria cases and deaths worldwide. In this same year, about 229 million cases of malaria were recorded with an estimated 409,000 malaria-related deaths.

 

This notwithstanding, the world has since 2000, made historic progress against malaria, saving millions of lives. A feather in the cup is the 2020 World Malaria Report which suggests that the South-East Asian countries reduced in cases by 73%. The number of deaths due to malaria also reduced by 74%.

 

However, according to the WHO, progress against malaria continues to plateau, particularly in high burden countries in Africa. Gaps in access to life-saving tools are undermining global efforts to curb the disease, and the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to set back the fight even further. Even so, funding for this preventable, treatable disease, which costs a child’s life every two minutes is dwindling and must be addressed

 

Despite these challenges, Ghana continues to make impressive progress in its fight against malaria, not only in the area of therapeutics but also in research. The Biotechnology and Nuclear Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has been deeply involved with mosquito and malaria-related activities for the past 20 years.

 

The institute has been in collaboration with its partners such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), Centre for Research in Infectious Diseases (CRID), National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), and Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) in this regard. These collaborations have resulted in the implementation of various projects aimed at sustaining the usefulness of existing vector control tools and development of new tools as well as education and awareness creation.

 

The flagship nuclear-based Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has proven effective against several insect pests and is currently being developed for mosquito control. Since 2006, GAEC with support from the IAEA has been researching how the SIT can be used against the major malaria vectors. The (SIT), which is based on irradiation-induced sterility, and incompatible insect technique (IIT), which is based on Wolbachia-induced cytoplasmic incompatibility (a kind of male sterility), are being developed as alternative methods to reduce mosquito vector populations. The technology is far advanced for Aedes mosquito vectors and it is anticipated that it would prove useful against malaria vectors.

 

In addition to its research activities, GAEC has since 2017 carried out Malaria Awareness Campaigns in communities where research is conducted to provide feedback on its findings and for social good. The first edition was held in 2017 at Dodi Island, the second edition held in 2018, at Okyereku, Gomoa East district, the third in 2019, held at Osrongba, a suburb of Dodowa in the Greater Accra Region. Last year was left out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans are far advanced for the 2021 edition to be held at Atatam, in the Adansi North District of the Ashanti Region.

 

The campaign is done annually to commemorate the World Malaria Day celebration where the Commission shares its experiences in mosquito research, carry out malaria screening, and share community-specific malaria prevention techniques with the people. This year’s campaign is in partnership with the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) of Ghana and the AngloGold Ashanti Malaria Control (AGAMal), scheduled for Wednesday, 12th May, 2021 at Atatam D/A school as contribution to national and global efforts towards zero malaria.

Ghana’s Ambassador to Austria calls on Director-General of GAEC

Ghana’s Ambassador to the Republic of Austria, H.E. Philbert Johnson, paid a courtesy call on the Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Prof. Benjamin Jabez Botwe Nyarko in Accra last week to familiarize himself with the activities of the Commission.

 

His visit comes on the back of the special relationship that the Commission has with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria over the years.

 

Ambassador Johnson in a brief remark expressed his appreciation to the Commission for sustaining the relationship between Ghana and Austria through its contribution to nuclear science and technology, as well as the administrative and diplomatic support GAEC has given to Ghana’s new Mission in Vienna.

 

“I have been a career diplomat for over two and half decades, and in all my work, I have not seen such monumental support. I appreciate it and I would want us to continue working in that manner and even more,” he added.

 

Ambassador Johnson who is Ghana’s first Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Austria, expressed optimism that the rich expertise of the Commission would help preserve and promote the image of Ghana among the comity of nations, adding: “the interest of our citizens is also preserved in our work within the UN in Vienna.”

 

He urged the Commission to consider the Vienna Mission as one of its own and that he would do everything within his ability to ensure that they work together in the interest of Ghana and its citizens.  “And so count me as a brother, friend, and collaborator, I will do whatever it is to ensure that at the end of it all, our people get the best benefits of the work that we do,” he added.

 

The Ambassador indicated that there were a lot of scientific works the Commission had done and were also doing to help develop the country that was unknown to the public. He, therefore, entreated the Commission to enhance its communication and visibility strategies to promote its brand.

 

He also urged the Commission to deploy strategies that would drive the interest of more women in the field of nuclear science and pursue a career in it. “Already, through the Director-General’s instrumentality and guidance, a paper has been presented to Cabinet that aims at ensuring that we apply nuclear science in our transformational development agenda. We hope it receives the necessary consideration,” he added.

 

On his part, the Director-General of GAEC expressed gratitude for the visit and applauded the Government for establishing a Mission at Vienna. This he said would help Ghana benefit a lot in the field of nuclear science and technology, since Vienna is the host of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has one of its cardinal responsibilities as fostering the exchange of scientific and technical information on the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

 

Prof. Nyarko explained that as part of an ongoing effort to promote the commission’s brand and its activities, a Commercialization and Communication Directorate has been established. “It was established early part of this year with the approval of the Board and it has been given the mandate to undertake commercialization activities and also come out with good communication strategies to inform and educate the public,” he added.

 

He further noted that plans were far advanced to amend portions of the Act establishing the Commission to grant its School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences (SNAS) the necessary approvals to award its degrees, rollout many more programmes, and also determine fees that would be competitive for many people to pursue a study in nuclear science.

 

“We hope that by the end of the year the Act will be amended and then we can proceed with our plans to encourage the IAEA to train more people locally and from the sub-region,” he added.

 

Prof. Nyarko disclosed that the IAEA was interested in Ghana becoming the center of excellence for the field of nuclear science and technology in the sub-region, and that, already Ghana had been selected as the place for various IAEA activities.

 

He, however, bemoaned the lack of local financial support for its activities, adding: “the IAEA can only assist to acquire the needed equipment but will not help you to house them.” He, therefore, appealed to Government to support the Commission in that regard.

 

The Deputy Director-General of the Commission, Prof. Shiloh Osae, delivered a presentation on the activities of the Commission. He touched on the mandate, functions, and some contributions of the Commission to the socio-economic development of the country in the areas of public health and safety, food and nutrition, and water resources, among others.

 

Prof. Osae also spoke about the medium and long-term plans of the Commission and made mention of Ghana’s plans to integrate nuclear power into the country’s energy mix.

 

Present at the meeting were the Directors of the various institutes and directorates of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission.

 

BY CPRC/CCD/GAEC

GAEC welcomes IAEA Fellows

The Radiological and Medical Sciences Research Institute (RAMSRI) of Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has received nine International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) research fellows for a clinical training programme in diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine.

The fellowship is an IAEA sponsored programme to equip medical physicists from Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe with hands-on practical training lessons at GAEC and other selected hospitals.

The Director-General of GAEC, Prof. Benjamin Jabez Botwe Nyarko, in a short address revealed that GAEC for the first time is hosting a six-to-twelve month group fellowship programme for participants to be trained in diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine.

According to Prof Nyarko, Africa has fallen behind when it comes to appreciating the importance of science and technology. He, therefore, urged the fellows to apply themselves to the programme in order to acquire the requisite hands-on knowledge needed to succeed when they go back to their various countries.

“Acquire a great amount of knowledge to be able to help your countries when you go back,” he said.

He also expressed his delight in having two female fellows taking part in the training programme. He mentioned that their involvement demonstrates that women can excel in the field of science and technology.

The Director of RAMSRI, Prof Mary Boadu said that IAEA Initiated the training programme to improve the overall safety and effectiveness of nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology services in Africa. As a result, she admonished the fellows to focus on their training so they can become experts in their profession.

“Endeavour to learn as much as you can, so that upon your return, you will be very beneficial to your own institute and country at large” she stated.

In a short statement, the Fellowship Coordinator, Mr Theophilus Sackey, advised the fellows to keep a portfolio to assist them in recording everything that they will be taught during their training. He also assured them of their safety and implored them to call on the Commission for guidance when they face any difficulty.

By: CPRC, CCD, GAEC