African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC)

Tribute to Ms Nene Oumou KEITA


The strength of the Onchocerciasis control programme in Africa lies in its strong and broad international partnership, unprecedented commitment of endemic communities and unequalled dedication and sacrifice by programme staff at all levels. But like all people-centred and result-oriented enterprises, the programme also has its difficult moments.

It is with profound sadness that the WHO/APOC programme announces the sudden death of Ms Nene Oumou Keita, one of its professional staff members who distinguished herself in the service to the poorest of the poor. Amiable Nene or “FO,” (Finance Officer), as she was fondly called, was not only an epitome of hard work and industry; but also radiated life as an unassuming pleasant personality.

News of her passing away in the morning of 09 April 2010, was not only “shocking,” but all the more “devastating,” because she was very lively in the office the previous day.

Nene was petite in stature but mighty in action; always wearing her trademark disarming smile that showcased her set of white teeth complemented by a velvety voice. She touched many lives not only with her generosity, but through her unique way of providing comfort to the distressed.

With an MBA in Management, Marketing, Finance and International Business from the South West Missouri State University, Springfield, USA, and a BA in Accounting, Statistics and Mathematics, from the University of Conakry, Guinea, her home country, Nene brought a wealth of experience to her job at APOC, and approached every task with meticulous ingenuity.

Before joining WHO/APOC in 2004, she worked as Administrative Director at the Population Services International, Conakry; as Managing Controller with a private firm BONAGUI Matoto also in Conakry, and as a Junior Accountant with McGraw Group Inc, in Richmond, Virginia, USA.

Since her passing away, glowing tributes have been pouring in from colleagues in APOC partner organisations, WHO and the Oncho family throughout the world, in honour of Ms Keita. Writing in the Livre d’Or, Dr Djamila Cabral, WHO Country Representative in Burkina Faso, described Ms Keita as an “exceptional collaborator,” saying that she gave her organization her all, and described her death as “tragic.”

Dr Evariste Mutabaruka, Director of the WHO Multi-Disease Surveillance Centre (MDSC), which shares the same building complex with WHO/APOC, said Ms Keita would always “occupy a special place” in the hearts of her colleagues and all those she came in contact with. He enjoined all to take consolation in the fact that it “is God that gives and takes life.”

On behalf of Dr Bokar Toure, Coordinator of the WHO/AFRO Inter-Country Support Team (IST) for West Africa, Dr (Mrs) Fenella Avokey, said Ms Keita would be “sorely missed” by the entire WHO staff family.

Dr Uche Amazigo, APOC Director said: “No word can console us for this irreparable loss.” On behalf of the APOC Management and the WHO family, she reminded the entire staff that “…even as we mourn, God in His infinite mercy is with us,” praying that the souls of Ms Keita rest in peace.

“I was to send a file to another colleague in the Human Resources Unit, but Nene who was in my office at that time (08 April 2010), volunteered to hand-carry the file to the unit,” narrated Mr Koffi Agblewonu, APOC Budget & Finance Officer and Nene’s direct supervisor.

Dr Grace Fobi, Ms Keita’s neighbour and very close friend, said she still considered Nene’s death as “unimaginable and unthinkable.” “You gave love freely not expecting any in return,” said Dr Fobi, adding that Nene’s death had left her own heart “continuously bleeding.”

News of Nene’s death threw into mourning, the entire staff at the APOC headquarters in the Gounghin district, West of Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso. Her colleagues from the WHO Country Office, APOC, MDSC, IST and other sympathizers took turns to visit her residence and the morgue to pay their last respects until the 16th of April when her body was transferred from Ouagadougou to Conakry for burial on 17th April 2010.

Ms Keita was 41 and is survived by a brother, sister and her father.

May her soul rest in peace, Amen!