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Winners of inaugural WHO Innovation Challenge emerge

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The three winners of the first World Health Organization (WHO) Africa Innovation Challenge have  been honoured at the ongoing WHO Regional Committee meeting of health ministers in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo.

The awards recognize home-grown innovations with potential to solve African health challenges.

Chosen in the inaugural competition: from Ghana, a solution to tackle counterfeit medications; from Nigeria, basic eye care to prevent avoidable blindness and to rehabilitate low-vision patients; and from Uganda, a pan-filovirus rapid diagnostic test for the early detection of viral haemorrhagic fever for use in villages.

Honoured for those solutions were the Ghana-based Sproxil Defender in the service innovation category, the Nigeria-based Maldor Eyecare Centre in the social innovation category and the Uganda-based Makerere University/Restrizymes Biotherapeutics (U) Ltd in the product innovation category.

“The creation of the innovation award is a deliberate effort to find solutions to Africa’s unmet health needs. I congratulate the winners for their novel solutions that will support countries to leapfrog health systems to accelerate attainment of universal health coverage in our region,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti.

The top-three health-oriented innovations were selected from a field of more than 2 400 entries from 77 countries – 44 countries in Africa. A panel of independent evaluators assessed and profiled the innovations in terms of the potential for making impact as well as ability to be scaled up in a sustainable way. More than a third of the submissions came from women-led enterprises.

Among all the applications received, 639 made it through to the evaluation phase. This reflects the challenges that innovators face in making progress from ideas to development and eventual broad-based application of their solutions. Investments in the innovation ecosystem that are complemented by innovation-friendly policies remain critical for further encouraging and supporting development of innovative solutions to solve Africa’s health challenges.

The Regional Committee is the annual meeting of health ministers from the 47 Member States of the WHO African Region.

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