GCRF Vector-borne disease control in Venezuela Network

Lead Research Organisation: Pontifical Catholic Uni of Ecuador
Department Name: School of Biological Sciences

Abstract

Over the last two decades, Venezuela has entered a deep socioeconomic and political crisis. Once recognised as a regional leader for public health and vector control, Venezuela's healthcare and health research infrastructure has fallen into a state of collapse, creating a severe humanitarian crisis and an unprecedented outbreak of vector-borne disease. The 'Global Challenges Research Fund Vector-borne disease control in Venezuela Network' (GCRF VeConVen Network) will support Venezuelan and regional vector-borne research, develop innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to addressing vector-borne disease control in challenging settings, and provide training for Venezuelan early career researchers to rebuild local research capacity. In the context of the current vector-borne disease emergency, high prevalence of infection, as well as the lack of adequate treatment, is negatively impacting health and welfare of communities especially in Venezuela, but also in Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador with knock-on effects for livelihoods and education. Cooperation among regional research scientists is vital to promote evidence-based interventions to deal with the current crisis. The GCRF VeConVen Network will create a forum to feed-forward and engage with regional health ministries, non-governmental and international bodies to improve health and welfare in these Official Development Assistance recipient countries.

Planned Impact

The Venezuelan economy is in free fall. State infrastructure is collapsing, especially in relation to healthcare. The exodus of Venezuelan citizens has included a significant proportion of qualified healthcare professionals and university researchers. The resultant 'brain drain' leaves the country with little recourse to address the current crisis, especially in the context of resurgent vector-borne disease transmission. The proposed network aims to directly address the current epidemics by promoting collaborative links between regional and international partners and their Venezuelan colleagues in the context of regional vector-borne disease control.

There are multiple beneficiaries of the proposed network, which is tailored to deliver impact across many different levels.

COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY THE CURRENT CRISIS IN VENEZUELA AND NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES: Many Venezuelans, as well those communities in neighbouring countries impacted by 'spill-over' of current vector borne disease outbreaks, are currently living under an intolerable burden of vector-borne disease. A core goal of the proposed Network is to develop innovative and resilient community-led approaches to the surveillance and control of vector-borne disease in affected areas. Such approaches will be fed forward to regional actors (Ministries of Health, NGOs) with the ultimate aim of alleviating the burden of vector-borne disease. Novel approaches developed in the Network will also for the basis of research proposals to trial the impact of such interventions in affected areas.

VENEZUELAN SCIENTISTS AND HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS. The crisis in Venezuela has led to an exodus of healthcare specialists, including scientists with expertise in vector-borne disease. The proposed Network will provide a vital forum for collaboration between those scientists that remain working in Venezuela under extreme conditions, expatriate Venezuelan researchers and their regional colleagues in Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as the wider region. There is an urgent need to rebuild the scientific community in Venezuela. Via a series of workshops, this GCRF Network will provide training and networking opportunities for a new generation of Venezuelan scientists

POLICY-MAKERS, NON-GOVERNMENTAL AND GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS: A key component of the proposed network is engagement with stakeholders and regional actors to improve vector-borne disease control. We will undertake several rounds of outreach to regional Governmental Organisations and Governmental Organisations in the form of dedicated meetings in Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia. Organisations that have already expressed an interest include the Pan-American Heath Organisation (PAHO), the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the Colombian Ministry of Health, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, as well as NGOs currently active in Venezuela (Medicins sand Frontiers, Rotary Club, Caritas, Amigos del Hospital de Niños de Valencia). Other target organisations include WHO and the Venezuelan Ministry of Health. Individuals from these organisations with relevant operational roles will be invited to each of three meetings. Our aim is share research perspectives, surveillance data and discuss operational and research priorities to define knowledge gaps.

GENERAL PUBLIC AND PRESS MEDIA: The general public and press media have a major interest and stake in the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and are thus beneficiaries of this project. The surge in vector-borne disease in the country is an integral part of the crisis. Our Network partners have already played an important role in communicating the extent of the crisis to the international media community. We will continue to do as part of this Network via coordinated press releases to accompany meetings and publications arising from the Network

Publications

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