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.



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.


GAEC hosts workshop on tomato processing and marketing techniques

The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) will host the maiden edition of a two-day workshop on tomato processing and marketing techniques, in Accra, from June 10 to 11, 2021.


The workshop, which is being organized in collaboration with the Organization of Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD) is designed for food processors, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and health-conscious individuals who want to learn how to make their tomato products as well as interested individuals who want to acquire an employable skill.


At the event, a newly developed tomato processing technology, a mixed-mode solar dryer called BNARI-Hemaa Kese Dryer, developed by a Senior Research Scientist of the Commission, Dr. Mavis Owureku-Asare will be unveiled.


Dr. Owureku-Asare
Dr. Owureku-Asare

According to Dr. Owureku-Asare, the solar drying technology is to help Ghanaian farmers, food processors, and individuals to preserve fresh tomato by processing it into dried tomato powder which can then be made into value-added products such as canned tomato paste and sauce.


“This will help reduce post-harvest losses, generate additional income, and provide a hygienic drying technology for tomatoes. Other food products such as vegetables, roots, and tubers can also be dried using this dryer. This technology prevents product contamination from specks of dust, birds, and livestock, and extends the shelf life of tomato” she noted.


“Participants will be given a hands-on training, served with lunch during the workshop, and provided with certificates at the end of the workshop,” she added.


Topics to be treated include an overview of tomato processing technology, solar drying of tomato, processing tomato powder, bottling and canning of tomato sauce and tomato paste, quality management systems for tomato processing, and contaminants in the tomato value chain.


Trainers for the workshop are Dr. Mavis Owureku-Asare, Dr. Joyce Agyei-Amponsah, Dr. Freda Asem, and Mr. Kwesi Akomea Agyekum. The rest are Mrs. Adjoa Agah, Ms. Abigail Mireku –Ansong, and Mr. Abubakar Abdullai.

Government urged to invest in nuclear infrastructure

The government needs to make more financial commitment to nuclear infrastructure in order to drive its industrialization agenda to create more jobs for the youth and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Prof. Benjamin Jabez Botwe Nyarko, said major investment in nuclear applications was not only crucial to driving its industrialization agenda but also to meet the country’s developmental objectives, particularly in areas such as power production, human health, food production, water management, and environmental protection.


“As a nation, if we want more forward, we must try as much as possible to harness the potential of nuclear energy in our developmental agenda,” he said.



He was speaking at a day’s engagement session with some Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on SDGs eight and nine, which was organized by the Nuclear Power Institute of GAEC on behalf of Ghana’s Nuclear Power Program Organization (GNPPO) in Accra.


While SDG eight talks about promoting decent work and economic growth, nine is on building resilient infrastructure, promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering of innovation.


Participants also discussed the progress made so far in developing the country’s nuclear power program and the roles played by CSOs as agents of development in the delivery of the country’s nuclear power program.



The Director-General said the greatest source of energy, the sun, was the bedrock of every living organism in any country, hence the need for the government to take bold steps in exploring the energy sector for the greater good of the people.


Prof. Nyarko, also the Vice-Chairperson for the GNPPO, explained that the two SDGs were interdependent and that without industrialization there would be no economic development.


“Industries drive the economy of every nation, and for industries to thrive, energy will be required, and not just any form of energy but a dense, stable, clean and affordable energy and that is where nuclear energy comes in.

“We are not saying other energy sources should be abandoned. What we are saying is that it should be an addition to Ghana’s energy mix just as Korea and other developed countries have done and are enjoying the benefits,” he added.



For his part, the Director of Nuclear Power Ghana, Dr. Stephen Yamoah, said the country could not achieve its SDGs without nuclear energy, adding that aggressively exploring nuclear energy would not only increase the country’s generation capacity but would also drive industrial growth while improving technology and services.


He cited South Korea’s industrial transformation and said they regarded nuclear not just as an energy source to be added to their generation capacity but as an industry to propel their economy.


“Today, they are not just an economic giant, they are selling nuclear technologies and nuclear power plants to other countries. Nuclear energy is a very interesting technology that as a country we must take very seriously to help transform our country,” he added.


Speaking for the CSO platforms that work collaboratively to achieve the SDGs in the country, the National Coordinator for CSO Platform on SDG, Mr. Kwadwo Owusu, expressed his gratitude for the involvement of CSOs in the program as it also focused on the country’s Nuclear Power.


“If we make good strides in the generation of energy, I think almost all the SDGs stand to benefit,” he added.


Source: Daily Graphic