Dr. Monique Wasunna, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) Africa Regional Office Director has been decorated with the second highest award in France, the French National Merit award for her contribution in the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Africa.
Dr. Wasunna, a former Ag. Director KEMRI and a long serving former director of the KEMRI’s Center for Clinical Research has been presented with the prestigious French National Order of Merit (Ordre national du Mérite) of the French government.
She was the only recipient of the award from the East African region in this cohort and received the honours on 23 September 2021 at the French Embassy in Nairobi. It was awarded by the Ambassador of France to Kenya and to Somalia, H. E. Mrs Aline Kuster-Menager.
“As founding partners of DNDi and longtime colleagues of Dr. Wasunna we are delighted and deeply honoured by this award which is a recognition of her exemplary work and passion in NTDs. This is not just a merit recognition, but a confirmation of Dr. Wasunna’s passion, commitment and leadership in delivering workable solutions to health challenges facing millions of communities globally,” said Prof. Sam Kariuki in his congratulatory message.
This particular presidential award recognizes distinguished services or acts of devotion, bravery, generosity, and commitment to the service of others, in the military or in the public and private sectors and is ranked as the second highest award in France after the Legion of Honour (Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur).
Dr. Wasunna’s award was given in recognition of her exemplary contribution to research and development in Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), advocating for, and delivering better treatments for neglected diseases in Africa, an area she has worked in for the last 30 years.
She has been a principal investigator in clinical trials to find better treatment options for neglected diseases. She has spearheaded the building and strengthening of regional partnerships in research and development for NTDs in Eastern Africa to expand clinical trial capacities in the region. Her research interests primarily focus on visceral leishmaniasis, mycetoma, malaria, and HIV.
Her work has impacted the Research and Development (R&D) ecosystem in Africa for neglected diseases. She has led networking efforts with scientists working in NTDs through R&D platforms such as the Leishmaniasis East Africa Platform where young scientists and institutions have benefitted from trainings and mentorship opportunities. She has also participated in efforts to ensure that patients have access to treatments for NTDs through close collaboration with National Ministries of health in the continent.