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Ugandan Finalists’ Innovative Device Detects Malaria

by Shelby Hawkins on June 2, 2018

Ugandan computer scientist Brian Gitta is among the finalists for the prestigious African Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Gitta and his team of inventors created a cost-efficient device that can detect malaria without a blood sample. Instead, Gitta’s Matibabu tests for malaria by attaching itself to the user’s finger.

Matibabu is Swahili for “medical center”.

The groundbreaking invention gives results within one minute. It is easy to operate so most adults are able to administer a test by themselves without a medical specialist present.

The test detects changes in the shape, color and concentration of the red blood cells, which malaria alters in an infected body.

Because of Gitta’s and his team’s achievement, they are now working closely with a local hospital to run tests and write academic papers on their innovative work.

“All four of our finalists have found novel ways to address critical challenges in their home countries – in fact, problems that are faced all over the world,” said Africa prize judge, Rebecca Enonchong. “We’re proud to be part of the development of world-class African technologies, and to support emerging African entrepreneurs.”

Other finalists hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe as well as South Africa. Each team of finalists are being praised to their innovative solutions to global problems.

“All 16 candidates have received tailored business mentorship, developing skills that last a lifetime. Engineers are among the best problem solvers in the world – and it’s imperative that we support those who embark on business ventures that advance technology in all fields,” added Enonchong.

If Brian is awarded first place he will be the first Africa Prize winner from Uganda.

Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation has positively impacted sub-Saharan African and the rest of the world. They aim to stimulate and mobilize talented African engineers and problem-solvers who want to tackle issues such as climate change, food security, infrastructure and access to education and transportation that largely affect the continent.

The other 12 candidates on the 2018 Africa Prize shortlist are:

  • Alvin Kabwama (Uganda) with UriSAF Maternal and Sexual Reproductive Health Care Kit, which tests urine quickly, accurately and affordably.
  • Arthur Woniala (Uganda) with Khainza Energy Gas, a cheap biogas made from manure and safe for household use
  • Brian Mwiti Mwenda (Kenya) with The Sixth Sense, a handheld echolocation device with ultrasonic sensors that alert visually impaired users to objects nearby
  • Daniel Taylor (Ghana) with HWESOMAME, a low-cost smart sensor that accurately detects soil conditions and notifies farmers via text or phone call
  • Emeka Nwachinemere (Nigeria) with Kitovu, an online platform that helps farmers in remote locations to increase crop yields and sell their produce
  • Esther Gacicio (Kenya) with eLearning Solutions, an interactive online programme that hosts courses for individuals or serves as a tool for training institutions
  • Lawrence Okettayot (Uganda) with Sparky Dryer, a low-tech dehydrator that dries fruit and vegetables to extend their shelf life and reduce food wastage
  • Monicah Mumbi Wambugu (Kenya) with Loanbee, a mobile phone application that calculates the user’s credit scores and grants micro-loans
  • Nges Njungle (Cameroon) with Muzikol, an online music marketing and social media app designed to meet all the career needs of musicians
  • Nnaemeka Chidiebere Ikegwuono (Nigeria) with ColdHubs, solar-powered walk-in cold rooms that extend the life of perishable food tenfold
  • Peter Kariuki (Rwanda) with SafeMotos, an app that connects commuters to the safest motorcycle drivers in Kigali, Rwanda
  • Shalton Mphodisa Mothwa (South Africa) with AEON Power Bag, which allows users to charge their phones on the go by converting radio waves and solar energy into power.

 

What is Malaria?

Malaria is one of the deadliest diseases in Africa. Of the 400,000 global deaths by malaria, over 90 percent of them are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Is it the fourth leading cause of death in Uganda behind HIV/AIDS, neonatal disorders and diarrheal disorders.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria is a mosquito-borne blood disease caused by a Plasmodium Parasite.

In 2016 an estimated 216 million people were infected with malaria in 91 countries. That’s an increase of 5 million cases since 2015.

The scary thing about those statistics is that many people do not know they have the disease until it is too late. Because the symptoms are so close to those of the common cold, many do not seek medical attention. Within 10 to 15 days an infected person will experience a fever, headache and chills. If those symptoms goes untreated within 24 hours the severity will climb and so does the likelihood of death.

Transmitted to humans by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito, the parasite multiplies in the host’s liver before infecting and destroying the red blood cells.

Featured Image via PxHere

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Shelby Hawkins
My name is Shelby, like the mustang, and I am an avid lover of photography, literature and desserts. I identify as a proud feminist and Pan-Africanist; hopefully that manifests in my writing.
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