The Southern Africa Centre of Infectious Diseases Surveillance (SACIDS) Foundation for One Health Board members has held a memorial seminar for the late Prof. Aaron Mweene in recognition of his massive contributions to its formation at Chrismar Hotel in Livingstone, Zambia, on Sunday, 15th December 2019. This seminar was organised by SACIDS and Africa Centre of Excellence for Infectious Diseases of Humans and Animals (ACEIDHA) at the University of Zambia (UNZA).
SACIDS Governing Board Chairperson, who is also Vice-Chancellor of Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania, Prof Raphael Chibunda, said that late Prof. Mweene was an impactful scientist as could be seen from his assistance he rendered to Government ministries in developing strategies to manage infectious diseases. He called upon all in attendance to emulate Prof Mweene to create an enabling environment for young scientists and researchers to flourish.
And Acting UNZA Vice-Chancellor, Prof Enala Tembo-Mwase, said that the late Prof Mweene was a delightful man who was always in a joyful mood. She said that you could always know that Prof Mweene was around from his unique laughter. Prof Mwase said that his hardworking and huge contributions to the nation made him receive a Presidential Award in 2017.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of SACIDS Foundation for One Health, Prof. Mark Rweyemamu, fondly remembered his first meeting with Prof Mweene during a check on Avian Influenza preparedness. He said that Prof Mweene was an inspiration and his laughter was infectious. In emulation of Prof Mweene, Prof Rweyemamu indicated that young scientists and researchers should not suppressed but supported as innovative brains in order to generate and discover new information. He concluded that Mweene was global scientist and researcher of high calibre.
At the same function, Veterinary Services in the Ministry of Health representative, Dr George Dautu, said that the late Prof Mweene was considered as an “employee” of the Ministry because of the time he spent assisting Government efforts in managing infectious diseases that affect both humans and animals. He said that Prof Mweene was indispensable member of the Multi-sectoral National Task Force which advises Committee of Ministerial Permanent Secretaries. Dr Dautu said that Prof Mweene played a key role in developing strategies to manage and keep surveillance on the following diseases:
a) Avan nfuenza Surveillance
b) Ebola surveillance
c) Ebola virus in Fruit Bats in Kasanka National Park
d) Foot & Mouth Disease and African Swine Fever
In the meantime, Assistant Dean, School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Zambia, Dr Edgar Simulundu, in his presentation entitled, “Aaron Mweene: Our Inspiration for a research Career in Animal Virology”, said that Prof. Mweene played a key role in developing the Ebola quick Test kit which is currently being used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Dr Simulundu said that he personally benefited from Prof Mweene’s connections and vast experience as he supervised and trained many students.
And Acting ACEIDHA Centre Leader, Dr Martin Simmunza, said that Prof Mweene’s visionary leadership led to the winning of the World Bank grant to establish the Africa Centre of Excellence at UNZA in the School of Veterinary. In his presentation themed, “Aaron Mweene: The Inspiration for Epidemiology Driven Risk Management of Avian Influenza and other Transboundary Animal Diseases in Zambia”, Dr Simuunza said that the late Prof Mweene supervised many Masters, PhD and Postdoctoral students. He said that his experience and skills benefited many people and institutions such as the Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.
Prof. Aaron Mweene was a senior professor who taught Infectious Diseases of Livestock, Veterinary Microbiology and Immunology as well as Veterinary Public Health to both undergraduate and postgraduate students at the University of Zambia and he was involved in the supervision of many PhD and MSc students as well as mentorship of Postdoctoral fellows. Professor Mweene had been assisting the Ministries of Health, Fisheries and Livestock by carrying out diagnosis of highly dangerous infectious diseases such as Ebola virus disease and avian influenza. He died on 27th April 2019 after a short illness in Lusaka, Zambia.