Published: 05-06-2015 16:22 | Updated: 08-06-2015 09:36

Tanzanian president visits KI

As part of a state visit to Sweden, the president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, stopped off at Karolinska Institutet, which has a long history of scientific collaboration with his country. The President’s visit to the university took him to a lab for malaria research.

The Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete arrived in Sweden for his three-day visit on 3 June on the invitation of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. The programme included a visit to Karolinska Institutet, which has had a long-standing and extensive scientific partnership with Tanzania centring mainly on women’s and children’s health, healthcare systems, malaria and HIV/Aids.

Presidentbesök TanzaniaThe delegation was welcomed to Aula Medica by Deputy vice-chancellor for International Affairs Maria Masucci, pro-Vice-Chancellor Kerstin Tham and Dean of Doctoral Education Anders Gustafsson.

Since 2009, KI has had a cooperation agreement with Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) in Tanzania and together they have educated a great many doctoral students. KI has also had more joint publications with MUHAS than with any other African university.

KI has also participated in Sida-financed projects between research institutions in Tanzania and Sweden.

Helena Kopp Kallner, researcher at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, talked about how the work they were doing under the WHO’s collaborating centre on reproductive health has led, amongst other things, to new, safer emergency contraceptive pills and simpler medical abortions. Globally, unsafe abortions are a common cause of death amongst women of fertile age. The research done by the centre recently showed that the treatment of incomplete terminations with misoprostol can be effected just as safely by midwives in rural Uganda as by doctors. This has improved access to treatment and saved many women’s lives.

Anders Björkman, professor of infection diseases, at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell biology and his departmental colleague docent Andreas Mårtensson, spoke of the over thirty-year collaboration between KI and Tanzania in malaria research.

“We’ve built up an equal partnership in which both parties bring their own experiences to the table,” says Professor Björkman. “We get to share local knowledge about malaria and have been able to contribute new technologies. It’s been a fruitful relationship from both sides.”

One of the concerns on which the partnership is currently focusing is combating malaria on the island of Zanzibar off the Tanzanian coast.

Tanzanian president visits labThe delegation then moved on to the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology, where Richard Mwaiswelo, doctoral student at MUHAS who is working on part of his project at KI, demonstrated some of the instruments he uses in his research on the effects of malaria drugs and the development of resistance to them.

As president, Jakaya Kikwete has shown great interest in maternal and infant health. He was also recently made chairperson of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Global Health Crises.

The presidential visit also included an audience with the King of Sweden and talks with the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Text: Sara Nilsson