The Olle Hansson Award which recognizes the contribution of individuals from developing countries in promoting the concepts of essential drugs and their rational use and increasing awareness among consumers of the dangers of irrational and hazardous drugs has been awarded to Dr Eva Ombaka this year.
Dr. Ombaka, a Tanzanian Pharmacist, has been committed to the goals of ‘Access to Essential Medicines' and ‘Rational Use of Medicines' over the years. She is currently the Coordinator of the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN) and is also an advisor to the Pharmaceutical Advisory Group of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Dr. Ombaka. Dr Ombaka was one of the founding Advisory Committee Members of HAI Africa and subsequently became a member of the first HAI Africa governing Board which was constituted towards the end of 2003. She is also the Board Chair of Sustainable Healthcare Foundation in Kenya.
Among Dr Ombaka's many achievements are:
- spearheading advocacy campaigns via EPN to help shape pharmaceutical policies and guidelines based on the concept of essential medicines, the WHO Model list of Essential Medicines and the Interagency Guidelines on Drug Donations;
- contribution to the development of the Tanzania National Drug Policy;
- designing training curricula and organizing courses for pharmaceutical institutes to produce many graduates focusing on Essential Drugs and their rational use;
- contribution as an active member in the model list expert committee at WHO which regularly updates the List of Essential Medicines;
- providing leadership for EPN members and WHO for evaluating faith-based drug supply organizations in a number of African countries where the lessons learnt have led to the development of ‘Guidelines for Effective and Efficient Pharmaceutical Services' that are now in use in health institutions in several countries.
- developing EPN's mission statement of ‘facilitating the development of compassionate, just and sustainable quality pharmaceutical care in and through the church health care system'.
Educated and trained as a Pharmacist at the University of Aston in Birmingham, UK she also received her PhD for research in Pharmaceutical Microbiology from the same institution. Dr Ombaka was also a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in 1986-1987. Her 30-year career in pharmacy has included hospital practice, work in academia and in the manufacturing sector.
The award is named in honour of Dr Olle Hansson a Swedish paediatric neurologist internationally known for his advocacy of SMON (Sub-acute Myelo Optic Neuropathy) victims who were paralysed or blinded after using clioquinol, an antidiarrhoeal drug. The awardee is chosen by an international selection panel of three eminent persons. The award is managed by Health Action International Asia-Pacific (HAIAP), a network of organizations and individuals involved in health and pharmaceutical issues.
Dr Ombaka's work has been most notable for bringing experiences from the grassroots to global fora and providing feedback from international meetings back to the people she serves at the local communities. She exemplifies the qualities of hard work, uncompromising steadfastness, and clear thinking that are basic attributes of a much wider community of people facing reality at the point where theory meets practice and where the challenges are always more numerous than resources. All who have worked with her will share pleasure in honouring her for her great contribution to strengthening health and pharmaceutical services where the needs are greatest.
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