1.Can you tell us about your Education and Work Experience?
Dr Thomas Sukwa obtained the Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery
degree from the University
in 1979 and worked as a Medical Doctor at NdolaCentralHospital
(Teaching Hospital) in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia. He went on to study
for the Master of Public Health degree at the Harvard University School of
Public Health in Boston,
where he majored in epidemiology in 1983. Upon his return to his native Zambia
he joined the Tropical Diseases Research Centre (TDRC) as epidemiologist. The
TDRC was one of the 3 global research institutes set up by the WHO/World
Bank/UNDP Special Programme in Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR)
in 1977. At TDRC, Dr Sukwa's work focused on epidemiological and clinical
research in Malaria, Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia), and Human African Trypanosomiasis.
He rose through the ranks to become Deputy Director in 1986. In 1987, he went
on to study for the Doctor of Public Health degree in International Health at
the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore,
Upon graduating in 1992, he returned to Zambia
to continue his research and clinical work at TDRC and the NdolaCentralHospital.
His research work culminated in making significant contributions to the
development and testing of new antimalarial drugs; scientific understanding of
schistosomiasis morbidity in communities; and in designing control strategies
for endemic tropical diseases, among others. He became Director of the TDRC in
1994, a post he held until he left to join the University
as Senior Lecturer in Community Medicine in 1999.
He joined WHO Regional Office for Africa
(WHO/AFRO) in January 2000 as Medical Officer in-charge of Malaria case
management. In this post, Dr Sukwa was instrumental in supporting countries in
the conduct of efficacy studies for first-line antimalrial drugs (chloroquine
and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine) and developed a framework to guide countries in
the adoption of new anti-malarial treatment policies such as Artemisinin-based
Combination Therapies (ACTs). In 2005, he was given a new responsibility to
steer the setting up of a new Communicable Diseases Research Unit within
WHO/AFRO. During his tenure as Regional Advisor for Communicable Diseases
Research, he accomplished the setting up of the unit and supported the
convening of High Level Meetings in Abuja
in 2006 to garner political support for research for health and for developing
countries to play a pivotal role in the TDR
research agenda. He was re-assigned to Head the WHO/AFRO Tuberculosis Unit in
March 2007, a position he held until his appointment as WHO Representative in
in July 2008.
2.What are your Priorities for the Health Sector during your
tenure in The Gambia?
Given that cost-effective interventions/tools/strategies for
malaria control are now available, it is hoped that malaria could be driven to
the pre-elimination phase in The Gambia. With the prevailing high political
commitment to malaria control in the country the WHO is determined to work with
government and other partners to mobilise support for universal access to
cost-effective malaria prevention and control interventions such as Insecticide
Treated Nets (ITNs), ACTs, Insecticide Residual Spraying (IRS),
and Intermittent Preventive Therapy (IPT).
Reduction in maternal mortality through provision of
interventions such as emergency obstetric care; making blood transfusions
available and accessible; and mitigating delays in referral of high risk
pregnancies; is another priority for WHO's work in the country in collaboration
Lastly, WHO has a key role to play in ensuring that research
results benefit populations in which the research is conducted. It is the
critical role of WHO to broker meaningful national level partnerships that
ensure that local research results not only provide the evidence base, but that
they feed into policy and practice for the benefit of local communities.
Therefore, the WHO Country Office will support efforts aimed at fostering and
strengthening of such partnerships among the research and disease control
communities in The Gambia.
3. How do you rate Gambia's
Performance towards attainment of the health related MDG's?
Based on the reports that I have read since coming into the
country, I am informed that The Gambia has already attained targets for MDG
2 (universal primary education), MDG
3 (gender parity in primary and lower basic education) and is on track for some
targets for MDG
4 (e.g measles immunization coverage), and MDG
6 (children sleeping under ITNs), but unlikely to attain MDG
1 target (poverty and hunger). The challenge now is to ensure that the gains
made in achieving or towards achieving the targets is sustained as we approach
4. Thank you for granting Health Matters this interview Dr