June 14, 2005
De Beers Establishes African Health Scholars Program at Johns Hopkins
To strengthen Africa's public health leadership infrastructure, De Beers will establish the De Beers African Health Scholars Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD. The program will support six African graduate students' studies for their masters of public health. After receiving their degrees, the students will return to Africa to apply their new skills in much needed areas.
Africa is plagued with serious health problems. AIDS claims 2 million adults and children each year while pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea are responsible for an additional 3 million deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. More than 4 million of the 10.6 million child deaths worldwide occur in Africa; nearly all these deaths are due to prevalent and severe infectious diseases in combination with malnutrition and deficiencies of specific nutrients, such as vitamin A and zinc. These high illness and death rates devastate communities and families while stunting economic growth, which leads to political unrest and social upheaval. Many of these conditions are preventable, but existing measures are not delivered because of poverty and inadequate health infrastructures.
As a part of an 11-month program, to be held for three consecutive years, the De Beers African Health Scholars will participate in a practical experience on a major health problem in Africa such as HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. De Beers is already heavily involved in HIV/AIDS prevention programs. The scholars will receive full tuition, a stipend providing living expenses, transportation to and from their home countries in Africa and a practicum experience.
"This program is bilaterally beneficial. Not only will it provide the scholars with an opportunity they may not have been afforded, but it will ultimately impact the African countries in which these students will return to help lead the fight against AIDS and other endemic diseases that debilitate the continentıs capacity," said Nicky Oppenheimer, De Beers chairman. "De Beers is proud to provide the opportunity for African students to receive an internationally recognized Johns Hopkins public health degree allowing them to return to their homes with additional knowledge and greater career opportunities."
The De Beers AHS program is a part of De Beers' overall commitment to the empowerment of Africa economically, ethically and socially, the company said in a press statement. "This program is particularly important to De Beers as the fight against HIV/AIDS is one of the company's major strategic areas of focus. The company currently funds 16 AIDS-related projects including awareness, education and counselling initiatives; hospice and community care programs; child/orphan care; income-generating initiatives and research projects; and, significantly, free anti-retroviral treatment for employees and their spouses or life partners. De Beers seeks to provide a holistic workplace program, which will enhance the quality of life for HIV infected and affected employees and the communities in which they live and work, while minimizing the impact of HIV/AIDS on the organization."
The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University currently has 10 full-time masters of public health students from Africa. The school has research and training programs throughout sub-Saharan Africa. "Nicky Oppenheimer and De Beers understand what is needed to improve health in Africa," said Alfred Sommer, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "It is essential to build leadership capacity and improve the public health infrastructure. The De Beers African Scholars Program is an investment in global health that promises to yield great returns and have a lasting impact."