– Ify Aniebo
“Queen of the night… Ify receives her Young Person of the Year award from 2009 winner, Dapo Adebanjo, a.k.a, D’banj” – The Future Nigeria
cp-africa: The Future Awards 2010 was a big night for you – with you winning in both the Young Person of the Year and the Best Use of Science categories. How did you feel when you won? Did you see it coming?
Ify Aniebo: I was absolutely gobsmacked. I thought I would never in a million years stand the chance because all the other nominees are immensely talented and inspiring people. When my name was called I wasn’t even expecting it. I was busy reading the certificate I was given and was really waiting to cheer someone else on. Then my name was called and I could not believe it. It was a wonderful moment I tell you. l was so happy and was in tears.
cp-africa: As a young girl, what piqued your interest in the sciences and ultimately in studying malaria?
Ify Aniebo: My interest was first sparked after I had suffered multiple infections from the bites of anopheles mosquito during my childhood and adolescent years. I noticed that the drugs administered both for treatment of the infection and for prophylactic use always changed because the parasite had become resistant. I find it both disturbing and fascinating that a disease which has been around for half a billion years still kills millions of people each year. What’s more intriguing is that no efficacious Vaccine has been developed. Malaria was neglected by the international community in the 90s and interest was only taken up a few years ago. There were no grants or funds to study the disease and millions were dying. Today there are some grants available but not as much as is expected. It is also saddening that there aren’t a lot of African scientists leading most malaria research programs considering the fact that it greatly impacts our continent. It is disheartening that most of the funds donated are from foreign organisations. I want to be part of the movement to eradicate malaria and effect a change positively because at the moment Malaria kills more people everyday than HIV/AIDS.
cp-africa: What do you think about the state of the malaria epidemic in Africa and how can African governments work towards greater prevention and treatment techniques especially amongst Africa’s children?
Ify Aniebo: People are still dying especially children but I think efforts are being made to tackle this global burden. I have come to find that majority of the efforts are made by international communities and non-profit organizations. Also there are countries in Africa that have been working very hard with these international organizations such as Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia to name a few. African governments need to include malaria prevention and treatment in their budget instead of waiting for European organizations for help. They need to start distributing insecticide treated nets (ITNs) to all homes in the country especially in homes with children under the age of five. These nets have success stories and really help reduce prevalence. At about £5 per net, each net can save up to 2 children. They need to make drugs available and cheaper for those that cannot afford it. They also need to invest a lot in health education and awareness. Environmental sanitation and water/sewage treatment is something African governments need to improve on because our environment is breeding ground for these mosquitoes. All in all, health care should be taken more seriously.
cp-africa: What are the challenges you face in the medical field as you work towards finding a malaria vaccine?
Ify Aniebo: The parasite has a complicated life cycle split in 2 stages, in human and in mosquito. It has been around for half a billion years now which means it has been evolving since then making it the most difficult organism to understand. That is very challenging. Finding a vaccine is dependent on so many fields within science but the great thing is all these fields work together making it a very exciting experience.
…Only 26, Ify was “the youngest person, the only black person and the only Nigerian in the Wellcome-Oxford-WHO unit in Thailand and in the Malaria Department at the Sanger institute in Cambridge…” NEXT
cp-africa: Who are your role models and how have they shaped you into becoming the woman that you are today?
Ify Aniebo: My Parents are my role models. They are strong willed, hardworking and disciplined. Seeing where they are today and all they stand for inspires me everyday.
cp-africa: What advice do you have for young Africans out there looking to major in the sciences?
Ify Aniebo: Passion, hard work and dedication always pays off irrespective of one’s geographical location. Do not let the situation of most African economies deter you from achieving you dream. I do understand the science sector in Africa isn’t as established but I’m sure that would change in a couple of years. All hope should not be lost 🙂
About Ify Aniebo
Ify Aniebo is currently a PhD student at the University of Oxford. Professionally she has worked at TDL Genetics, Mediserve, the Cambridge Antibody Technology (Medimmune), Illumina Inc , the Sanger Institute, Cambridge and the Wellcome-Oxford-WHO unit in Thailand and has presented her research at leading malaria research conferences around the world. She has a BSc in Genetics from Queen Mary, University of London and an MSc in Applied Bio-molecular Technology from the University of Nottingham.
About The Future Nigeria
“The Future Awards, described as Nigeria’s biggest youth event, is the flagship platform under The Future Project, which is an umbrella of youth development projects/programmes that seeks to empower young people and re-direct them towards adding value to themselves and society with strong, positive images/messages.
Managed by a youth communications/youth resource agency called RedSTRAT, it celebrates young people between the ages of 18 and 31 with the awards “The Future Awards”– which are rigorously judged through a 4-stage 4-month process that involves a Board of Judges and an Independent Audit Committee.”
The complete list of the 2010 winners is documented here on Celebrating Progress Africa