Top WHO job for sacked NIMR boss

Monday April 3 2017

Dr Mwele Macelela

Dr Mwele Macelela 

By Syriacus Buguzi

Dar es Salaam. Public health stakeholders in Tanzania yesterday showered praise on Dr Mwele Macelela following her appointment as Director in the Office of Africa Regional Director at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Malecela, 55, former Director General of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), will now be based in Brazzaville, the Republic of Congo, where the WHO Africa has its headquarters.

News of her appointment spread swiftly on social media yesterday, with her fellow researchers and public health experts expressing their confidence in her ability to work at WHO Africa.

Dr Faustine Ndugulile, chairman of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Advisory Group on HIV/Aids in Africa, described Dr Malcela’s appointment as an opportunity that came at a time when “one door has been closed.”

“Ecstatic with the news of your new job at the global body. When one door closes, another opens. Serve us well,” said Dr Ndugulile on his Twitter handle.

Dr Malecela is set to embark on her new role at WHO Africa, one of six regions of the United Nations agency.

She will be working under the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti who is also based in Brazzaville.

Dr Malecela has kept a low profile since President John Magufuli sacked her as NIMR director general last December.

No reason was given for Dr Malecela’s unceremonious exit from WHO, which was announced a day after she told the media that studies showed that the Zika virus was present in Tanzania.

She has since avoided the press but continued to work as a researcher. Up to the time of her new appointment at WHO Africa, Dr Malecela was chief research scientist at the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (CoSTECH).

As reports that Dr Malcecela was headed for one of the top jobs at WHO Africa trickled in, a University of Dar es Salaam academic, Prof Kitila Mkumbo, was among the first to comment and congratulate her.

Prof Mkumbo tweeted, “I’m so happy for Dr @mwelentuli appointment at WHO-AfRO. I feel absolved for having criticised the TZ authority for sacking her at NIMR.”

For his part, the Executive Director of Sikika, a health advocacy NGO, Mr Irenei Kiria, said he had all along believed that Dr Malecela was destined for a senior international post.

Mr Kiria was among prominent people who tweeted congratulatory messages following reports of Dr Macelela’s appointment to the WHO regional office.

“Best of luck my friend @mwelentuli on your new posting at the WHO-AfRO. It would seem you were meant to finally serve our country from outside,’’he said.

Dr Malecela worked with NIMR for nearly 30 years, mainly in the field of Lymphatic Filariasis immune-epidemiology and in Health Systems and Policy research.

She has been at the forefront of priority setting for health research activities in Tanzania where she facilitated the Tanzania National Health Research Priority Setting process in 1999 and revision of these priorities in 2005.

She joined NIMR in 1987 after graduating from the University of Dar es Salaam. She earned her PhD in Parasitology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1995.

She was the third NIMR director general, but the first woman to head the institution.

Dr Malecela also became the first woman and African to be appointed Vice President of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI).

She has also been a member of WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee for Neglected Tropical Diseases.