From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Professor Sidi T. O. Alghali: Discovering A Role Model in Sierra Leone
By Sayoh Kamara
Jan 21, 2006, 16:20

The column will be profiling personalities from all works of life who are doing well, or have done well in their various fields of endeavour to make the Sierra Leone society a better place to live.

Today, our Personality is Professor Sidi Tejan Omarr Alghali, the Director of the National Aids Secretariat (NAS). Read on.

He is black in complexion, with a long face dotted with round and bright searching eyes, a pointed nose and a small well shaped mouth that is neatly dressed on the upper lip by a well trimmed mustache. He is tall and well built- the type fashion designers would like for a model.

He was born on July 8, 1949 in Freetown, to a pious Muslim parentage.

Professor Alghali has an impressive academic background, which makes him one of the fittest to hold his current position as Director of the National Aids programme in Sierra Leone.

He is a holder of a B.Sc joint Honours degree in Microbiology and Zoology from the University of Wales (Swansea) UK, in 1973.

Professor Alghali is also a holder of an M.Sc degree in Parasitolgy/Community Health & Medicine from the London school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK in 1974, and a PhD holder in Immuno Parasitology from the University of Glasgow, UK.

He is a member of several distinguished medical associations and a beneficiary of several more honours including:

The Institute of Biology (UK) British Society for Parasitology (UK); Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (UK); Sierra Leone Agricultural Society; and the International Epidemiological Association.

He is listed in the profiles of African Scientists in the African Academy of Sciences as a leading regional Epidemiologist.

Because of this wealth of knowledge, Professor Alghali since 1974 to date, has been working with the University of Sierra Leone as Principal of the College of Medicine and Allied Sciences.

In 1997, he was appointed by H.E President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah to the National Policy Advisory Committee in the Office of the President, and in 2002, he was appointed and approved by the World Bank as Director of the National HIV/AIDS Secretariat in Sierra Leone.

In the area of administration, Professor Sidi Alghali has a pool of experience. Apart from his over twenty-five years of University teaching, administrative and research work, he is also blessed with experience in the relationship between preventive development and development and social factors such as in the fields of education, health, employment, family and the environment and demographic factors (fertility, mortality migration etc).

He is also vastly knowledgeable in the implementation of community health projects relating to health education, primary healthcare, family health, control of tropical diseases, family planning, environmental health research, prosecution in tropical diseases and epidemiology.

He also posses extensive knowledge in the designing and implementation of community-based projects as they relate to disease transmission eg. sexually transmitted diseases, (STIS), and HIV/AIDS, parasitology/ immunology and reproductive health etc).

Professor Alghali is one Sierra Leonean academician who believes in the ability of his country growing into becoming one of envy in the sub continent. "This country is blessed with everything, the resources and the manpower. I have every belief in the better future of this country," he told Awareness Times recently.

This religious belief in one’s mother land is predicated on his extensive familiarity with Sierra Leone’s national policy and planning at all levels of government, as well as non-governmental communities including NGOs, Universities and research institutes, as well as in the legislative and political environment.

"That is why even when the going seem to be tough in this country. I decided to stay in order to assist the government come up with tangible policies that have helped pull Sierra Leone out of the depth of statelessness."

Besides Professor Sidi Alghali’s massive contribution in building the capacities of several Sierra Leoneans through his supervisory roles in the University of Sierra Leone, he has also undertaken many research works into certain infections prevalent in the country. This he has been doing with a view to contributing in no small way to the health standards of the Sierra Leone society. The demonstration of such patriotism, coupled with his vast experience, is the reason why he has won him merits and recognition from international organizations.

Between 1985/86, he did a research in the prevalence of intestinal parasitic infections in farmers in the Njala area, sponsored by the World University Service of Canada.

Between 1986/90, he again conducted a research on schistosomiasis in the Moyamba district, sponsored by the International Development Research Centre in Canada.

Between 1989/93, he did yet another research in schistosomiasis in the Bombali district, this time sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Finally, between 1991/93, he also conducted a research on community movement in the transmission, prevalence and control of schistogomiasis in Sierra Leone, also sponsored by the African Development Foundation (ADF) with funds from the United States Congress.

It was no doubt therefore that H.E President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, seeing the potential and value in his knowledge and vast experience, appointed him to head the National Secretariat that is overseeing the world’s NO 1 killer infection and disease, HIV/AIDS, in the country.

Since he assumed that mantle of leadership in 2002, there has been a dramatic rise in the awareness of Sierra Leoneans on the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

"Even though I took the appointment because I was the most fitted, I considered it a challenge, considering the low level of ignorance about the pandemic in the country."

His first step therefore was to institute a massive awareness campaign programme, which took the message on how the infection is spread to every nook and cranny of the Sierra Leone society.

He also adopted the policy of breaking silence on the issue, by encouraging at the least school pupils to talk openly about sex and the issue of HIV/AIDS.

Infact, it is this mass sensitization that culminated into a policy framework in education that led to the issue of HIV/AIDS to be included in the school’s curriculum.

Even with the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on people and countries in Sub Saharan African, the positive effect of this mass sensitization campaign in Sierra Leone has helped a great deal in mitigating its like effect on Sierra Leone. A recent sero-prevalence survey conducted in Sierra Leone by a Ghanaian contracting firm, puts the national prevalence rate at 1.5%, which certainly puts Sierra Leone amongst the lowest prevalence countries in the world.

But Professor Alghali is complacent over this result, despite the efforts.

He says, "This has just indicated to us that more needs to be done in the area of sensitization in order to impact on peoples’ behavioral change. This is our challenge as a body charged with administering the issue of HIV/AID in this country."

He called on all implementing partners of the HIV/AIDS programme to as well change their attitude towards the implementation of programmes.

Professor Sidi Tejan Omar Alghali is married and is blessed with three children, Farid, Amira and Anwar. They are all graduates.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.