Glory Alapa, co-founder of Pearl Medical, is tackling the issue of poor management of medical waste in her country, Nigeria.
A few years ago, Glory recalls, a lady whom she later met, got infected with the hepatitis B virus from a needle prick injury while cleaning one of the wards of a private health facility, leading not only to mental health problems but also to the loss of her job. A situation caused by healthcare facilities’ poor handling of medical waste, which the Nigerian doctor has witnessed and sustained herself several times and has decided to address through her start-up Pearl Medical, which she co-founded in 2021. “I launched it to help healthcare facilities manage their waste effectively, but it also helps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, promoting public health in developing countries,”according to the organisation’s Linkedin page.
Pearl Medical’s innovation, a low-cost solar-powered incinerator capable of destroying 200 kg of medical waste per day, promises to help healthcare facilities such as laboratories, hospitals, pharmacies, and medical schools…manage their waste other than throwing it into open landfills or incinerating it. This solution not only reduces environmental pollution, but also allows for the management of medical waste in locations with no access to electricity and the incineration of solid medical waste. « Our innovation aims to cause a behavioral change in the handling of medical wastes by healthcare workers so as to improve sorting, treatment and disposal or recycling of the waste for a safe and better environment for all”, she says.In addition to waste management via technology, the start-up also recycles plastic medical waste into products. It also carries out climate education campaigns, advocacy, sanitation services…
Waste management assistance provided to 20 health facilities
To date, the initiative has not only aided 20 health facilities in Jos city, but it has also enabled some victims of improper medical waste management to receive medical care and compensation from their employers. A great source of pride for the young Nigerian doctor, who also co-founded CleanUpAfrica, a subsidiary of CleanUp, which incorporates artificial intelligence and sensors into waste management systems and which recently won the European Organization for Nuclear Research’s Open 17 Climate Justice Challenge in Switzerland.
Doctor by sheer luck
Glory Alapa now combines a medical career with a passion for the environment and climate change, but just a few years ago, the young Nigerian would never have envisioned a career in medicine. She explains that she ended up in this sector by happenstance after failing to study pharmacy. “Unlike many others, I never wanted to be a doctor,” she says. She studied in Jos University and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree of Medicine, followed by a Bachelor’s degree of Surgery in 2023.
It was during the Covid 19 pandemic that her passion for disease prevention grew stronger. With Pearl Medical, she started working to create a healthy environment to improve the well-being of everyone in and around healthcare facilities. In 2023, as a result of her commitment, she received the Yali Leadership Award during the Climate Tech Innovators program, organized by the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A success that she owes to her resilience and ability to adapt. “Funding is a major challenge, however, we learnt the concept of running on empty from the Yali program and so using that concept, we utilize resources at our disposal to carry out tasks without necessarily spending so much money,”she explains.
Committed to gender justice
Apart from her passion for environment, she is dedicated to gender justice. The young doctor, who is the General Secretary of the Medical Students Association of Nigeria, an organization with over 50,000 members, organizes awareness campaigns on women’s empowerment. She also motivates and encourages girls and women to pursue leadership roles. Recently, she recalls, she encouraged a young woman to run for the presidency of a student club with over 4,000 members. After a tough election, she finally won the position, she confides.
For the young woman, there is undoubtedly a common thread between her commitment to the environment and gender justice. “Climate and gender are interconnected, because women suffer more from the effects of climate change”,Glory explains.
Today, the young woman’s goal is to lead a global public health organization, so as to inspire more girls.
Danielle France Engolo