ECTMIH 2015 award recipient – Omotayo Awere

Omotayo Awere
Omotayo Awere, Researcher, Department of Epidemiology and Medical Statistics, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

(Interview took place in 2015)

1. What prompted your research interest in malaria?

Malaria is a major public health concern in Nigeria. Bed nets are a key recommendation to protect people, and we need a huge global investment for their production and distribution to all households in Nigeria. This is why I decided to work on the use of bed nets in Nigeria.

2. How has malaria affected your life?

Malaria has caused havoc in my household. My sister suffered from malaria just before she was due to have her daughter. The infection was not completely treated before the delivery. The baby was ok, but my sister passed away. That was 10 years ago now and today the child is healthy. My sister was 33 at the time. My brother has also been under the influence of malaria throughout his childhood. He suffered on several occasions.

3. Can you explain what area of malaria research you are working on and why it is so important?

I am looking at household or community factors that influence the use of bed nets, particularly in children under 5 years of age. It’s important to understand these factors before beginning huge deployment campaigns. They can be taken into consideration to maximise the impact of the campaign.

Two key household factors are the sex and age of household heads. For example, if the household head is female, the likelihood of the children under 5 of the household sleeping under a bed net doubles and if the head is less than 50 years old the youngsters are also more likely to use nets.

Then in terms of community factors, for example, we have three wealth indexes: rich, middle and poor. Use of nets steadily decreases with wealth index; so children under 5 in the poor category are most likely to sleep under a bed net. Why? It could be a factor not measured, for example, a community factor such as a malaria campaign or scale-up programme could have had an influence and people in the rich category might have other preferred means to control malaria. My study showed that the use of nets is 3 times more likely in regions where there has been a campaign. 

4. What do you see as the biggest challenge regarding malaria elimination and eradication?

The biggest challenge is poverty and the lack of knowledge that often accompanies it. The level of illiteracy is high here, in Nigeria, especially in rural areas. That is essentially why I want to proceed with this research in my PhD.

5. What was the highlight of the conference for you?

I am very grateful for this opportunity. It opened my eyes a lot. I learnt from others and improved my skills and knowledge in the field. I was fascinated. I was impressed. In particular I was impressed that the so-called developed countries, where there is no malaria, are so interested in eliminating the disease in Africa. It’s awesome.

Apart from the science, I met some great people, such as Marcel Tanner. His talk had a big impact on me. I realised there is no limit to what you can do. I also got to meet him one on one. I had no idea I would be able to do that. He was so humble and down to earth. I wish to be able to have more opportunities like that.

6. What are your near and long-term career goals and how will the ECTMIH help you to fulfil these? 

My long-term career goal would be to see malaria come down to zero in Nigeria. It’s my number one goal. And not only Nigeria, but the rest of Africa too.

In the short-term, I wish to begin a PhD programme to continue my research on the use of insecticides treated bed nets with respect to parasitaemia level among household members. I’d like to enforce and influence the use of nets in every household. I would also like to follow up on their use to understand their impact.