Tuesday 18 May 2021
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newtimes - 1 month ago

Rwandan writer scoops global award

21-year-old Obed Imbahafi made Rwanda proud worldwide when he recently emerged the winner of the written category for global youth storytelling on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). His impressive story details a Grandpa’s diary entry about intestinal worms-a disease that lessens the body’s aptitude to absorb nutrients and vitamins. According to Imbahafi, more than one billion children are at risk of contracting intestinal worms of which 82 per cent live in South-East Asia and Africa. The global youth storytelling competition on NTDs started from December 2020 to April 8, 2021 and was launched to combat NTDs and youth combating NTDs in partnership with the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi, African Union, Channels TV, Commonwealth Youth Health Network, International Youth Federation, MPJ Youth, TIBA, National Institute of Health Research, ASMTH, and 1millionX2021. The competition received over 400 entries from 39 countries. Over 50 percent of the entries were received from young people across Africa where there is a high dominance of NTDs. All the youth around the world were allowed to participate and 40 reached the finals including two Rwandans. Winners were announced in five categories, such as digital, music, video, audio and text. The judges were from Japan, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Costa Rica. “I won the first place in the text category with my piece titled, ‘The power of children in fighting NTDs in Africa.’ In my article, the speaker conveys the message of NTDs to young people whom he has occasionally been meeting in an evening short story series,” Imbahafi noted. He carried on that in his piece, the narrator shares with young people his father s experience that he refers to as ‘grandpa’. He tells them about where and how he encountered NTDs during his time as a teacher in DRC and his mitigation measures. The narrator also goes ahead to explain in-depth about NTDs and leads his audience to discuss ways they can help fight it. His story ends with an assignment to the children to further engage them on the topic of NTDs. He won the top prize of $2500 and his plan is to develop a social media website and mobile application focused on tracing the history of Africa so as to bring back African youth to their roots. Imbahafi’s humble plea to the government of Rwanda is to have a cohesive control approach targeting multiple NTDs simultaneously through mass drug administration (MDA), combined with community-level transmission control measures. This allows programs to reach more people and increase cost competences over tackling each disease separately, he said. NTDs affect over 1.7 billion people. Over a billion of those people are below the age of 15. A child may contract an NTD at an early age, but the effects of that disease, including disabilities, stunting, disfigurement and stigma, could last a lifetime. However, experts say that NTDs are preventable and treatable.  To his fellow youth, Imbahafi said, there is no set time favorable to start something they are proud of. He urged them to get up and start something they can do. The solution, he said, is usually obtained along the road and encouraged them to embrace the fact that failure is part of the success routes and that there is no limit to the winning mind. Last year, Imbahafi won the best photo from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa-UNECA young innovators boot camp on Covid-19. He has also led the second prize winner team in 2021 young innovators boot camp. He will be featured among other 50 young Africans in the African youth Covid-19 heroes book volume one and is yet to be featured in the book, “ Rising stars of the rising economies” by Aiman Kabli. Imbahafi is an alumnus of the World Intellectual Property Organization-WIPO summer school and Ignite innovation lab. He is a former first-year student of University of Rwanda. In high school, he pursued computer and electronics and got a first grade at national level. His confidence was battled when he encountered difficulties in admission and later was admitted into creative design, which was not related to what he had studied before. He thought this course is meant for people with inherent skills or are keen on learning art and eventually dropped out of University in his first year.  He however as no doubt that he will continue with his education and excel. The youngster delights in storytelling, writing and publishing. Some of his work has been featured in The New Times, as well as in foreign-based media such as Hubpages, CoFoundersTown and Inspire africa for global impacts initiative blog.


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