Tobacco control advocates across Africa were thrown into mourning last Saturday following the death of Sheila Ndyanabangi, who worked as the Principal Medical Officer in charge of mental health and substance abuse at the ministry of health in Uganda.
Ms Ndyanabangi, 62, passed on at the Mulago National Referral Hospital after a long battle with uterine cancer, Ugandan health ministry officials said.
“I am still in shock since hearing of the passing of the Ugandan tobacco control focal person – Dr Sheila Ndyanabangi,” said Lekan Ayo-Yusuf, a professor and the Director, Africa Centre for Tobacco Industry Monitoring and Policy Research (ATIM).
“Although we knew she was ill, but nothing could prepare anyone for the passing of such a significant figure in our struggle to protect the lives of current and future generations from the tobacco industry. Her passing only strengthens our resolve to continue the struggle.”
Akinbode Oluwafemi, Deputy Director of the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, described the late activist as a strong woman and a courageous fighter who at every point stood bold to confront and resist the tobacco industry.
“She was a rallying point not only in Uganda but for the continent. The tobacco control community in Uganda and indeed Africa will surely miss her.”
Achieng Otieno of the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance said Ms Ndyanabangi’s death was a shock to the continent and the global tobacco control fraternity.
“Her commitment to a tobacco free Africa was evident by what she stood for and was very strong when confronting the tobacco industry in all fronts.”
Wondu Woldermariam, the Focal Person of the Consortium of Ethiopian NCD Associations, described the news as a deep shock.
“It is indeed Uganda, we all here in Africa and the world at large lost one of our tested leaders in our war on tobacco.
“Although we miss her a lot, but her passing only strengthens our resolve to continue the struggle she has been leading to protect Africa from tobacco epidemic.”
In a condolence message to Ms Ndyanabangi’s family, the Makerere University, Kampala, where she had been a member of the steering committee of the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa; stated that her unwavering loyalty and service were exemplary and self-evident.”
“To everyone who knew and had an opportunity to work with her, she was a person of enormous influence and an outstanding ability,” said Rhoda Wanyenze, an associate professor and the dean, Makerere University School of Public Health.
“We will forever celebrate her life and achievements.”
At the University of Pretoria, which worked closely with Ms Ndyanabangi ahead of the first ever World Conference on Tobacco or Health on African soil – in Cape Town last March – the late activist was hailed for her role in the success of the programme.