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Vol. LVIII, No. 5
March 10, 2006

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Zerhouni Leads NIH Visit to North Africa

NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni led an NIH delegation that met with senior government officials and biomedical researchers in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco Jan. 17-25. The purpose was to discuss potential areas of mutual collaboration in the biomedical sciences in response to long-standing requests by ministers of health and science and technology in each of these countries.

In addition to participating in the signing of an umbrella U.S.-Algeria science and technology agreement, the delegation visited health care facilities and academic research laboratories. They met with scientists and clinicians interested in all areas of health-related research, with an emphasis on infectious diseases and newborn health.

NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni emerges after a visit to a private clinic founded by Drs. Malika and Jamal Khodja Bach (walking on his right) in Algeria. Located in Dely Ibrahim outside of Algiers, the 4-floor clinic was inaugurated in December 2004 and has 80 beds and equipment not available in most public health care facilities in Algeria. Also pictured are other members of the NIH team including FIC acting director Dr. Sharon Hrynkow (second from r) and Julia Royall, NLM
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky accepts a gift from Algerian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Rachid Haroubia. The pair had just signed the U.S.-Algeria Science and Technology Agreement in Algiers, which is intended to encourage increased cooperation between scientists in both countries.

In Morocco, Zerhouni signed a letter of intent with the director of the National Institute of Hygiene in Rabat, signaling an intention to continue efforts to facilitate collaborative research between U.S. and Moroccan scientists. The visit highlighted the strong research base present in North Africa and led to the identification of several immediate areas intended to strengthen collaborations, including an NICHD-supported regional conference on newborn screening, to be held in Rabat in September; NIAID sponsorship of regional HIV/AIDS conference participants from the Maghreb (meaning "western" in Arabic, it includes the area of Africa north of the Sahara Desert and west of the Nile); development of NLM training plans for North African librarians; and FIC support for capacity building, including training in the development of institutional review boards, and support for women scientists to attend a major Department of State-sponsored regional workshop on women in science.

"The staff at the U.S. embassies in all three countries remarked that they had rarely witnessed such a well-received U.S. delegation," noted Judy Levin, program officer for the Middle East and North Africa at FIC.

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