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SA directors win WHO award for short film about sleeping sickness

Published May 13, 2020


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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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African News Agency (ANA)

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