RCZ unveils $10m for Covid-19 research

Source: RCZ unveils $10m for Covid-19 research | Herald (Top Stories)

Ms Susan Muzite

Sifelani Tsiko

Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor

The Research Council of Zimbabwe has announced a $10 million fund designed to support local universities and research institutions to come up with new innovations to fight the raging Covid–19, which has claimed millions of lives worldwide.

This facility is the latest measure taken by the council to respond to the pandemic and will be the institution’s primary channel for its efforts to address the crisis.

The council’s executive director, Ms Susan Muzite, said Treasury had released the funds to support research on Covid-19.

“The funding is recognition of the on-going and important role of the Research Council of Zimbabwe in funding and directing research towards issues of national priority and security, such as the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said. “Covid-19 has indeed affected the entire world, and as RCZ, our mandate is to fight this disease through the frontiers of research.

“Research funding is extremely important because it is through funds that our researchers are empowered to do research. We are grateful to the Government for this recognition and for the entrustment of the Covid-19 research funds which will provide answers, solutions, and roadmaps in responding to Covid-19.”

Ms Muzite said the country had capable researchers to carry out research and come up with research results that could help fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Priority areas for research funding include indigenous knowledge and practices applicable to prevention, control, promoting wellness, the socio-cultural dynamics of transmission, mental health and vulnerability.

“This research fund gives us the unique opportunity to recall our known socio-cultural traditions, practices and systems, with respect to dealing with pandemics, which are not new to the human family,” said Ms Muzite.

“We want to recall how those before us dealt with pandemics and draw inspiration and lessons from that, through the application of science, as we strengthen our survival in the face of Covid-19.”

Funding for project activities was pegged at $7 million for local costs and US$20 000 for external collaboration.

The project duration for approved grants will be 24 months and funding will be eligible for researchers who take on a multi-disciplinary approach and form collaborative research teams that include researchers from across the borders.

Zimbabwean universities and independent research institutions have over the past 12 months developed various ground-breaking innovations and inventions to help fight the pandemic.

Exceptional technological developments included the production of face masks, hand sanitisers, prototype ventilator, sanitisation booth sprayers, computer software that can distinguish ordinary pneumonia from the one caused by Covid-19 and a number of research outputs to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lack of funding has largely stalled the commercialisation of some of the major research outputs, leaving researchers frustrated.

This targeted Covid–19 fund is expected to underpin dynamic universities and independent research institutions to develop more innovative products and solutions in these uncertain times and drive Zimbabwe’s growth.

Like the rest of Africa and the world, Zimbabwe has been hardest hit by the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic with cases rising on a daily basis.

As at January 19, Zimbabwe had recorded 28 675 cases and 825 deaths, with the police warning they will move to tighten enforcement to contain the pandemic.