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Fiocruz joins international project focusing on health and sustainability at borders


Maíra Menezes (IOC/Fiocruz)


With international partners, Fiocruz has launched a research project that aims to contribute to the health of populations and ecosystems in the Amazon and East Africa in the face of climate change and environmental degradation. The aim is to establish information systems to support local communities in border areas in assessing the impacts of environmental transformations on their well-being and in developing actions to prevent, adapt to and mitigate these problems.

Binational bridge connects the cities of Oiapoque, in Amapá, and Saint Georges de L'Oyapock, in French Guiana. Illegal mining worsens environmental and health challenges in the region (photo: Paulo Peiter)

In the Amazon, the research will be carried out in two areas: the binational border between Brazil and French Guiana and the triple border between Brazil, Colombia and Peru. In Africa, the project will focus on the border between Kenya and Tanzania, covering the territory where the Maasai people live. Entitled Multi-site application of Open Science in the creation of healthy environments Involving local Communities (Mosaic), the initiative brings together around 90 researchers from 15 scientific institutions in seven countries.

The project is coordinated by the French Research Institute for Development (IRD, in French abbreviation) and was selected by the European Union's Horizon Europe program for funding from 2024 to 2027. It is the first European call for tenders for research grants to involve the International Platform for Science, Technology and Innovation in Health (PICTIS), a research center set up in collaboration between Fiocruz and the University of Aveiro in Portugal.

On the Kenya-Tanzania border, intense droughts make water and pasture resources scarce, striking a balance between livestock farming and wildlife (photo: David Western/African Conservation Center)

Leader of the work package for Pictis, Paulo Peiter, researcher at the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at the Oswaldo Cruz Institute (IOC/Fiocruz), points out that the project is an initiative focused on the practical application of scientific knowledge in dialog with the traditional knowledge of the populations in their territories.

"Mosaic brings together researchers from three continents – South America, Africa and Europe – with the aim of integrating scientific knowledge with the knowledge and practices of local communities for the translation of knowledge. We want to provide information and communication tools for managing, adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation in the territories," says the researcher.

Experts from four of the Foundation's units are taking part in the project: the Oswaldo Cruz Institute (IOC/Fiocruz), the Leônidas and Maria Deane Institute (Fiocruz Amazônia), the Institute for Scientific and Technological Communication and Information in Health (Icict/Fiocruz) and the Sergio Arouca National School of Public Health (Ensp/Fiocruz).

Project coordinators met in Montpellier, France, to discuss the first steps of the research (photo: Disclosure)

Planetary health and open science

The project has two pillars. The first of these is planetary health, which encompasses the integration of human health and the health of terrestrial ecosystems. The second is open science, which emphasizes the importance of sharing research data, scientific collaboration and the involvement of society in the production of knowledge.

To create technological systems capable of collecting, analyzing and sharing data on the environment and health, producing relevant and accessible information for local communities, the study brings together experts from various fields of knowledge. Researchers from the fields of human and animal health, ecology, geography and data modeling, among others, are part of the project. The research also foresees the participation of local communities in all stages of development.

Drought in 2023 took the Solimões River to one of the lowest levels in history, damaging navigation and supply to cities (photo: Civil Defense of AM)

The head of the Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases at IOC/Fiocruz, Martha Suárez-Mutis, leader of the work package for Pictis, emphasizes the importance of the multidisciplinary and participatory approach of the research. "Many national and international organizations produce data, including information on climate, environment, population and diseases. But this data does not connect in such a way that we can understand what problems may occur in the territories as a result of climate and environmental change. On the other hand, communities have a lot of knowledge, which needs to be taken into account by science in order to think of ways to mitigate these problems," says Martha.

To integrate so much diverse knowledge, the Mosaic project is structured into work packages that include coordination with local actors, technical and technological solutions for gathering and harmonizing data and dissemination of information.

Border health

The three regions in the focus of the research are already experiencing health problems linked to climate change and environmental degradation, e.g. droughts. In the Amazon, the extreme drought at the end of last year affected everything from access to drinking water to mobility. In East Africa, the worst drought in 40 years was recorded between 2020 and 2022, leading to the death of herds, destroying crops and deepening food insecurity.

The researchers point to social and political contexts that increase the vulnerability of populations in these territories. "Border health has greater challenges in terms of surveillance and disease control because the environment is shared. People, animals and diseases move between countries, but there is great difficulty in accessing and sharing information," says Paulo.

Urban area between Tabatinga, in Amazonas, and Letícia, in Colombia, is unified. Great population mobility between countries makes health management at borders difficult (photo: Paulo Peiter)

History of cooperation

The first meeting of project coordinators was held in February in Montpellier, France. The scientists from the countries involved shared data obtained in previous studies and discussed the planning of the research.

On the Amazonian borders, Fiocruz researchers have been carrying out relevant research, including projects to eliminate malaria and cross-border disease surveillance with a participatory approach and cooperation with various international institutions Part of the studies are within the scope of activities of the Sentinel International Joint Laboratory, maintained since 2018 by Fiocruz, the University of Brasilia (UnB) and the IRD.

In addition to Pictis and the IRD, the Mosaic project has the participation of the African Conservation Center, Kenya; the University of Warszawski, Poland; the University of Lisbon, Portugal; the Cayenne Hospital Center, French Guiana; the National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, the Center for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development and the Universities of Perpignan, D'Aix Marseille and D'Artois in France.

The University of Brasilia (UnB), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the National University of Colombia are partners in the project.


An innovative mechanism for international cooperation, Pictis was set up as part of the Legal Framework of Science, Technology and Innovation, which encouraged the internationalization of Brazilian science. The platform was established on the basis of the cooperation agreement signed in March 2021 by Fiocruz, through IOC/Fiocruz, with the University of Aveiro.

Based at the PCI Creative Science Park in Aveiro, Pictis expands the possibilities for collaborative studies and participation in international research consortia and networks. Submission through the Platform was decisive in ensuring participation in the Horizon Europe call for tenders, as it would have been necessary to submit a tender from a European country. The funds raised amounted to around 1.2 million euros, just for the part of the research conducted by Pictis. The total amount of funding obtained by the project is approximately 6 million euros over four years.

The platform is structured into six sectoral research laboratories: Innovation; One health and global health; Digital health and industry 4.0 in the biopharmaceutical sector; Pharmaceuticals, medicines and bioproducts; Biotechnology; and Collective health, primary care and humanities.

The laboratories are based on networking involving multidisciplinary teams made up of researchers and professors from Fiocruz and the University of Aveiro, as well as Ibero-American and European institutions that are partners in the project.

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