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09.12.2015 - Natural Sciences Sector

A call to develop life sciences and health research in Africa

© UN Photo/Martine Perret Health Worker at Ebola Isolation Ward in Kabala, Sierra Leone

The recent Ebola outbreak in Western Africa highlighted the weakness of the African health systems and the inability to provide adequate scientific solutions to problems at the local level. Meanwhile, HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases continue to kill millions of African people. This scenario could worsen from increasing drug resistance and the emergence of new epidemics. It is clear that African countries urgently need to strengthen their scientific research and innovation capacities, as well as to improve their health and science policies, in order to enable a sustainable development of the continent the most disadvantaged and defenseless against infectious diseases. In this context, UNESCO and Merck launched the first UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit (UNESCO-MARS) to enhance research development in the field of Life Sciences and Health across Africa.

As technology and scientific research were being recognized as essential to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the adoption of a new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, over 100 young researchers from 30 African countries gathered on 19- 20 October 2015 in Geneva, with senior scientists and high level authorities from African governments, international organizations, and scientific institutions, for the first UNESCO-MARS, which focused on Ebola and emerging infectious diseases.

The 2015 Summit received an enthusiastic response from the African scientific community. At the end of the Summit, the participants issued a declaration, in order to affirm their commitment to address health challenges to sustainable development in Africa. The Declaration is a call for policy makers, international organizations, the scientific community and the private sector to strengthen their engagement for the development of life sciences and health research and innovation in Africa.

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