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Two Ugandan health workers receive Women in Focus Awards

Two Ugandan health workers Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa, and Aciro Grace Oyat won awards at the inaugural Women in Focus Awards for their roles in fighting Neglected Tropical Diseases. Oyat, 45, won the Women in Focus Inspirational Award while her compatriot, Tukahebwa, 51, was awarded the Women in Focus Leadership Award.

The fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) is one that usually goes unrecognised and unrewarded. In  the inaugural Women in Focus Awards that took place at the NTD Summit 2017, the awards celebrated the crucial role women play in the on-going fight against neglected tropical diseases, a release on the Uniting to Combat NTDs website said.

Two Ugandan health workers won awards at the inaugural Women in Focus Awards for their roles in fighting NTDs. The two women, Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa, and Aciro Grace Oyat were first shortlisted alongside other women from across the world. The Women in Focus Awards had 100 women nominated by 165 people. Women from 11 countries, including Bolivia, Ethiopia, Yemen and Nigeria were recognised on the 19th of April for their tireless and vital role on the frontline, tackling NTDs in their communities.

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Tukahebwa who works in Kampala tackles NTDs in Uganda. She’s been tackling NTDs for over 20 years. She helped Uganda become one of the first countries to introduce an integrated approach to tackling NTDs, New Vision reported. Tukahebwa works in the Ministry of Health in Uganda in the Vector Control Division and also serves as a World Health Organisation (WHO) advisor to Ghana and Eritrea.

The winner of the Inspirational Award at the Women in Focus awards, Oyat, from Abera Village, Lamwo District, joined the Village Health Team as a volunteer with no expectation of payment. She was always on a 24 hour call and distributed malaria medicines to children between 4 months to 5 years, Uniting to Combat NTDs reported.

When her son was struck by Onchocerciasis (River Blindness) disease, Oyat insisted on using the medicines she had instead of going to a traditional doctor. The cure of her son encouraged many others to drop their negative attitude towards NTD medicines.

Oyat worked during the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in northern Uganda. She was the only woman getting drugs across to those at the grassroots level.

She was unable to attend the awards ceremony. She said the award was for all women in poor countries such as Uganda who bear the burden of taking care of those affected by NTDs.

The shortlist had four different award sections.

The Inspirational Award is given to women who’ve been affected with NTDs and have made significant contributions in supporting others.

The Community Champion Award is awarded to women that work at the community level such as teachers, community directed distributors, and community health workers who have made a remarkable impact in their work linked to NTDs.

The Exceptional Service Award is given to women working with NGOs who have made contributions towards NTD control and elimination.

The Leadership Award is for women working at a health center, sub-national or national level who have given exceptional service towards NTD control and elimination.

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NTDs are a mixture of treatable, and preventable diseases that continue to place a heavy burden on over 1 billion people on the planet. Some of the diseases cause severe disfigurement and disabilities. They thrive where access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare is limited. Some of these diseases include leprosy, chagas disease, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis, trachoma, guinea worm disease among a host of others.

Oyat, 45, won the Women in Focus Inspirational Award while her fellow Ugandan, Tukahebwa, 51, was awarded the Women in Focus Leadership Award.

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