Merck Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Senator Dr Rasha Kelej has said her organisation is committed to bring to an end the stigma associated with infertility, and also promote girls’ education in Africa.
The foundation runs a project called “Merck Foundation More than a Mother” working with First Ladies from different countries on the continent.
On Tuesday, the Foundation held its an Eighth edition of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary which was hosted by Zambia virtually, and was inaugurated by that country’s president, Edgar Chagwa Lungu.
The meeting brought together First Ladies from 19 African countries including the host, Esther Lungu as co-chair with Dr Kelej as Merck Foundation also celebrated its 4th Anniversary.
Dr Kelej said the video conference, which had over 32,000 participants from more than 70 countries, met to discuss strategies and solutions for health challenges in their countries so that they can contribute to improving access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions and building healthcare capacity in many critical and underserved medical fields.
These include diabetes, cardiovascular, endocrinology, Cancer, Research, Fertility Care, Women Health, Sexual & Reproductive care, Respiratory Medicines, and Acute Medicines.
“We will also define interventions to break the stigma around infertility in general and infertile women in specific and to support girl education as Ambassadors of "Merck Foundation More Than a Mother" campaign.
"We will acknowledge this year the efforts and sacrifices of our everyday heroes, our medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic, and we will celebrate our joint achievements and your dedicated contribution to ensure our programs have a significant impact in your countries.
“Merck Foundation underscores their long-term commitment to build healthcare capacity in more countries and with more Partners, will work closely with all of you to realize our vision and lead the world to a better future,” she said.
Malawi's First Lady, Monica Chakwera also spoke at the conference where she commended Merck for the support, and outlined some of the interventions the country is undertaking to ensure success of the project.
“We believe that educating a girls child is step towards ending poverty in the country. We are currently working with the Ministry of Health to identify more health workers that deserve scholarships,” she added.
More than 1100 doctors from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship programs, and in the next few years more are expected to follow in specialties like Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health, Orthopedic Trauma, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma and Orthopedics.
The other First ladies at the conference included those from Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of The Congo, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia.