Tribute to Dr. Mwele Malecela

Photos of Doctor Mwele Malecela at a 2019 celebration in TogoDr. Malecela joined us to celebrate Togo’s elimination of lymphatic filariasis in 2019.

A Tribute to Dr. Mwele Malecela: A Colleague, a Collaborator, and a Friend

The Mectizan® Donation Program joins the neglected tropical disease (NTD) community and others in global health in mourning the loss of Dr. Mwele Malecela, who died on the 10th of February, 2022.

Dr. Malecela was a highly respected scientist and advocate for NTDs. In 2018, she was appointed Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) department of NTDs. Despite her cancer diagnosis in 2019, Dr. Malecela led the development of Ending the neglect to attain the Sustainable Development Goals: a road map for neglected tropical diseases 2021-2030, which was launched in early 2021.

Prior to joining WHO, Dr. Malecela served as a Director in the Office of the Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for Africa providing policy and diplomatic advice to WHO AFRO Regional Director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. Before she joined WHO AFRO in 2017, Dr Malecela served as the Director-General of Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research. She was also the first Director of the National Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Program in Tanzania.

As a junior scientist, her primary research interest was immunoepidemiology of filarial infections, which include onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis. She was a strong advocate for lymphatic filariasis patient care promoting morbidity management as a key element of LF elimination programs. Soon after the Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) expanded its mandate to include lymphatic filariasis elimination, Dr. Malecela served as a Mectizan Expert Committee member from 2001-2004. She also chaired various public health initiatives including the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF) and the WHO/AFRO Neglected Tropical Diseases Regional Program Review Group (WHO/AFRO NTD RPRG).

Dr. Malecela was world-renowned as a scientist and a leader. In 2017, she was the recipient of the Kyelem Prize from The Task Force for Global Health’s Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases. In 2021, she received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. According to WHO she was also frequently included in the top 100 list of the most influential women in Africa.

Dr. Malecela was admired for her steadfast dedication to her work, to the people she served, and to her determination to beat all NTDs for the more than one billion people at risk. She led with a rare combination of integrity, grace, and dignity and will be greatly missed by MDP and the NTD community. We offer sincere condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues. Her legacy lives on and we will honor it by continuing the fight against NTDs.

Link to Dr. Malecela’s funeral held February 21, 2022, in Dar es Salaam:

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