Two South African film-makers have been selected out of 1 300 entries by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for their film about a new treatment for “sleeping sickness”, a deadly disease transmitted by the tseste fly at the inaugural Health for all Festival
Colwyn Thomas, who co-directed the film with Greg Lomas, was elated to have received the recognition at the WHO’s first ever online awards ceremony.
A short film by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) tells the story of doctors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and their role in developing a revolutionary all-oral treatment for sleeping sickness.
DNDi is a non-profit drug development organisation founded in 2003 by Doctors without Borders to address the needs of patients with the most-neglected diseases.
The film, titled “A doctor’s dream: A pill for sleeping sickness”, portrays Dr Victor Kande, a Congolese researcher who helped to lead efforts by the non-profit research and development organisation DNDi and partners to develop the treatment known as fexinidazole.
“It’s a huge honour that the film was selected out of so many entries, and affirming to see how a marriage between film and advocacy can make an impact,” said Thomas.
Sleeping sickness is a deadly infectious parasitic disease transmitted by the tsetse fly.
Until recently, the only available treatment was an arsenic derivative that was so toxic it killed 5% of patients. DNDi and its partners discovered fexinidazole, owned by pharmaceutical company Sanofi, and developed it into a safe and easy-to use treatment. Patients now just need to take pills for 10 days.
According to the WHO, the Health for All Film Festival aims to put storytelling power in the hands of film-makers and seeks to showcase the role of individuals and communities as champions for health and well-being.
In a tweet WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We are delighted to announce the winners of @WHO’s inaugural #HealthForAll Film Festival. Congratulations to everyone who submitted a film.
"We thank you for your commitment to drawing attention to the pressing issues in global health through your art.”