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Dr. Charles Vincent Mtawali, our beloved patriarch and a brilliant, renowned physician, was born in the village of Mlowe, Malawi, on April 4, 1919, and migrated to Tanzania as a child. In 1943, he obtained a Degree in Medicine and Surgery from Makerere University in Uganda. While serving as Medical Officer during the II World War, he noticed how  more foreign soldiers succumbed to malaria than to bullets. Long before medical advances in immunology, he presented theories at the World Health Organization that led to the ensued identification of a single sickle cell anemia gene as a source of genetic immunity against fatal forms of malaria amongst indigenous Africans.

Dr. Mtawali undertook post-graduate training after the war, at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh/Glasgow, and earned Doctor of Medicine (M.D). He was also Diplomate a in Public Health, Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from Cambridge and Liverpool in England. Although he started his medical career at an era with low expectation of Africans' intellectual capacity, his excellence in medicine was recognized with the award of an M.B.E., (Member of the British Empire), by the Queen of England. He is also the author of numerous scientific articles in the British Medical Journal. During the African colonial struggle, Dr. Mtawali, then a church elder at the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, pointed to benevolent acts of western missionaries as proof that the exploitation of Africa was more of a moral failure within a few, rather than an inherent sense of injustice. After the Tanzanian Independence in 1961, he was appointed as the first Secretary of Health. During his government leadership he observed how virulent malaria has become due to resistant to synthetic drugs. While his reverence for life led him to return to the private practice in medicine, his desire to eradicate tropical diseases impelled him to focus on controlling malaria outbreaks.

Dr. Mtawali attended numerous Conventions of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, as a Member of the Executive Board representing African countries. Since I was toddler, I could see a sparkle in his eyes as he announced, “Nakwenda Safari Geneva”. Instantly, I associated the resonance of those words with his special, honored position in society. Years later, I learned to appreciate this position as a very high level of intellect, a genetic gift that kept on giving, in that two of his progeny daughters, Dr. Miriam Mtawali and me, went on to become second generation physicians ourselves. His scientific contribution includes mapping resistant malaria to facilitate prevention. After working hard to save many lives, he passed away at the age of 65 on November 24, 1984, at Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, following another lengthy courageous fight with yet again, none other than malaria.