NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 9 – The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) protested on Thursday that their studies were being compromised by over reliance on donor funding.
KEMRI Acting Director Dr Solomon Mpoke said the government allocation of only Sh1 billion annually had left them at the mercy of donors who came with specific projects for research.
“Of course if a donor is giving some money (they have) certain interests (of areas to be researched),” he said.
“I think what we should do right now is to look at all the issues about human health because that’s really our area, and then review what we have been able to do and the emerging issues in terms of health that are not getting attention so that now we re-focus our energies to those new areas,” he added.
Dr Mpoke said KEMRI, which is one of the leading health research institutions in Africa, is currently operating on an annual budget of Sh4 billion against a need of Sh9 billion.
He said there was need for the government to increase the allocation of research emphasising avowals like the Abuja, Algiers, and Bamako declarations all of which ask the government to commit a part of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to research.
“I think there has been a lot of discussion outside there and appreciation that there is need for more funding of research,” he said.
Dr Mpoke said the budget deficit could be met through public-private partnership not necessarily the government alone.
“We are not expecting the government to provide all the money. I know there are certain private entities that are really interested in doing their own research and we can collaborate with them. Like the pharmaceuticals can finance particular research for example development of malaria vaccine,” he said.
He asserted that this would mean that KEMRI sets the agenda and then the private companies come in to fund the researches based on their interests.
Acting Assistant Director, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr Kizito Lubano said very little money was channeled to the right research for problems affecting the country despite the many emerging diseases like H1N1 influenza virus.
“Only 10 percent of the global funding of research comes to the 90 percent of the problems which affect our country which is a very big gap,” Dr Lubano said.
“Researchers are sitting for example in KEMRI doing all the research, while policy makers are sitting in the ministry so their priorities are different but we need to be proactive and narrow that gap in such a way that our agendas are synchronised,” he added.
Dr Lubano said the major gap that existed was between research findings and implementation and said researchers held a lot of information which was rarely implemented.
“Research findings take too long to implement because there is a separation where scientists do research first, then a policy has to be formulated before implementation can begin,” he said.
He gave the example of male circumcision and said the research was done in the 1990s but it was not until 2006 when policy makers began looking at the need to develop guidelines.
“Yet all that time people are suffering! But if we had conceptualised that idea from the beginning that we will do the research, a policy is formulated immediately for implementation it would work well,” he said.
The two were speaking during the review of the institution’s strategic plan.