Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Lack of communication hinders public understanding of research in Ethiopia

By Eyasu Zekarias

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The Armauer Hansen Research Institute (AHRI), a leading medical research center in Ethiopia, has faced serious challenges in effectively communicating its work to the public over its 54-year history, hindering the ability of the public to engage with and appreciate the institute’s contributions.

According to Professor Afework Kassu, the General Director of AHRI, insufficient public relations efforts in the past have even led to incidents of community backlash, such as the destruction of 5 large research trucks years ago in Bahir Dar. This was due to a lack of understanding within the local community about the HIV research the institute was conducting at the time.

“The research we were doing on HIV in Bahir Dar years ago was not strong enough to create a real understanding in the community, resulting in the destruction of 5 large trucks that are national treasures and the destruction of researchers,” Prof. Afework stated.

In the wake of this incident, AHRI has developed a renewed focus on community engagement strategies to better inform the public about its work. The institute has launched programs to promote its decades of research, innovation, and development contributions to both Ethiopia and the global community.

Over the past 54 years, AHRI has published over 1,000 research papers in prestigious international journals, including groundbreaking work on drug-resistant tuberculosis. The institute recently announced research findings that reduced the treatment time for drug-resistant TB from 2 years to just 9 months, a development recognized by the World Health Organization.

Currently, AHRI has 395 researchers working on a range of critical health issues, from malaria and leprosy to cholera and bacterial infections. However, the lack of effective communication between the research centers and the public has hindered the ability of Ethiopians to fully understand and engage with this vital work.

“Research institutes are working with the public and need to inform them of their work,” stressed Prof. Afework. “The purpose of the project is to increase the number of people in the community and promote the institute’s research, innovation, development and production contributions.”

As AHRI moves forward, it is clear that improving public communication and engagement will be essential to ensuring the Ethiopian people can fully benefit from the institute’s decades of medical research and scientific advancements.

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