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Q&A: attending a milestone WHO event – Omorodion Rhoda

Left to right: Vinny Smith (Chief Executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF)), Omorodion Rhoda Omoile (CoMO Regional Coordinator for Africa), Elaine Devine (MRF Director of Communications and Engagement) and Alicia Stillman (CoMO member Emily Stillman Foundation and American Society for Meningitis Prevention)


We recently caught up with Omorodion Rhoda Omoile, our Regional Coordinator for Africa, who attended the World Health Organization (WHO) high-level meeting to defeat meningitis in April 2024. Here are her thoughts on how it went and why it was such an important event.

 

Tell us about your role as a Regional Coordinator and a bit about your organisation.

My role as the African Regional Coordinator includes working in collaboration with HQ to increase CoMO’s visibility and engage current and future members, supporting them if they have queries. I keep members up to date on the work of CoMO and encourage members to attend our quarterly regional calls, where they share best practices and input to CoMO plans. I also provide feedback on the delivery of CoMO programmes and activities such as World Meningitis Day, the annual conference and national plans for meningitis.

 

Care and Development Centre (CADEC) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which I founded by myself, with a mission to empower vulnerable people through participatory approaches. Our vision is of a society where currently vulnerable people become self-reliant. We work with disadvantaged people to design and implement programmes that will improve their well-being and socio-economic welfare regardless of race, gender, social class, political affiliation, religion or ethnic affiliation.

 

What was your experience of attending the event and meeting so many influential people?

It was an amazing experience, visiting Paris for the first time. However, it became even more interesting to me when I met other stakeholders (governments, international institutions, patients, and advocates) committed to the fight against meningitis. Of course, I am convinced that investing in meningitis will prevent cases of the disease and its long-lasting sequelae, and ultimately save lives. However, the investment case brings financial assurance to the WHO Global Road Map to Defeat Meningitis by 2030, as funds are key in achieving its goals and objectives globally. In the past, I have always wondered, with the date drawing closer, how possible it really is to achieve a positive and decisive outcome by 2030. Now, after the successful hosting of the investment case event, I am much more relaxed that the race to defeat meningitis is assured.

 

Why was the WHO high-level meeting an important milestone in defeating meningitis?

For the first time, the financing needs for the full achievement of the Road Map have been calculated and categorised to maximise the effect of every dollar invested. An investment in meningitis is also an investment in primary health care, and it will bring benefits far beyond meningitis.

 

The high-level meeting was a global call to action to boost commitments towards defeating meningitis by 2030, to raise significant awareness, resources and actions in the form of commitments from Member States, donors, partners and the private sector.

 

The meeting in Paris was uniquely timed and held in the lead-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games (also in Paris) – and at the Paralympics, we will see several athletes affected by meningitis competing. This opportunity aimed to enable significant visibility for the Road Map’s prioritisation of care and support for those affected, thereby emphasising the links between sport, health and multilateralism.

 

How did the voices of CoMO members influence the day?

Although not all CoMO members had the opportunity to air their voices on that day, a few were able to attend and share their stories. This includes Alicia Stillman (The Emily Stillman Foundation and the American Society for Meningitis Prevention), who was on stage that day and gave a brief narrative of her experience following the death of her lovely daughter from meningitis. Her experience shook the hall: almost everyone became very emotional listening to her narrate her daughter’s plight. In reaction to her narrative, many stakeholders expressed their commitments to the investment case.


If you'd like to hear more about the Race to 2030 advocacy programme, please click here.


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