On Wednesday 20 October at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Congolese Deputy Prime Minister Christophe Lutundula and Antwerp Governor and Chair of ITM’s Board of Governors Cathy Berx are signing an agreement that further extends current cooperation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Thanks to this agreement, ITM will have an office abroad. Minister of Development Cooperation and Urban Policy, Meryame Kitir, is also present and provides additional resources to continue the fight against sleeping sickness in DRC.
For more than 50 years, ITM has been working closely with a large number of Congolese partners in the fields of education, medical research and disease control. Our institute contributes to the fight against Ebola, sleeping sickness and emerging diseases in DRC, and also exchanges knowledge on other public health issues such as bacterial infections. To further strengthen these and other successful collaborations, an additional agreement is now being concluded. The signing of this will take place today at the Egmont Palace in the presence of Minister Kitir.
Putting the agreement into action
"Thanks to the legal status, ITM’s presence in DRC will be fully recognised by the Congolese government and international partners. The legal status also comes with operational advantages and provides a solid basis for possible future growth of existing relationships and new partners, both in DRC and beyond," explains ITM Director Marc-Alain Widdowson. "The philosophy of the relationship with the partners does not change, but rather strengthens the bonds. Cooperation and capacity building with partners in DRC remain a core principle of ITM-DRC," emphasises Widdowson.
Joining forces against sleeping sickness
Sleeping sickness kills in 13 African countries, 70% of which are in DRC. ITM and the Belgian Development Cooperation have been important partners for years, also in eliminating this deadly disease in DRC. This has resulted in a rapid decrease in the number of cases in recent years. Minister Kitir foresees new funding of €5.6 million to continue the fight against sleeping sickness.
"Together we are taking on the fight against sleeping sickness in DRC. The expertise of ITM and its cooperation with organisations in DRC make it a very suitable partner. I am therefore very happy that today we are strengthening the cooperation between ITM and the Congolese government so that together we can strive to protect the population from sleeping sickness," says Minister Kitir.
Over the past months, the Belgian and Congolese embassies and authorities, the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD) and ITM have worked intensively together to reach this agreement. The DRC partners also expressed their appreciation for the increased involvement and the way in which this fits in with the historic approach of ITM. Three years ago, DGD, the Congolese authorities and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave ITM and its Congolese partners the green light to eliminate sleeping sickness by 2030.
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