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Merck Foundation Trains 500 Specialist Health Workers In Africa

MERCK Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA says it is satisfied with doctors going back to work in their countries after being trained to specialize in different fields.

By Winnie Agnes Botha-Merck Foundation

The aim of Merck Foundation training program is to develop a strong platform of specialists in Oncology, Fertility and Diabetes. The specialized doctors are expected to support the public health system of their respective countries to improve access to equitable and quality healthcare.

Merck Foundation Chief Executive Officer-CEO- Dr. Rasha Kelej, who is also President of Merck Foundation More than a mother initiative said the Foundation is looking at developing a comprehensive team of specialists and para-medical staffs in the African countries.

“We also urge the Doctors to share their knowledge and experience with their fellow Doctors to maximize the benefit. Can you imagine new 80 oncologists in 26 countries most of them never had oncologists before, a few had one or two only which was not enough”
Dr. Kelej said in most African countries the trained doctors are doing a tremendous job and are being a great value addition to their healthcare system. In many African countries oncologists graduates, for example see about 1200 patients per month.
Looking at early diagnosis as a tool to mortality prevention, these trained specialists are capable enough to tackle the prevention, early diagnosis and management of Cancer, Fertility and Diabetes. They are able to optimize the available resources even if there is a resource constrained setting in their respective countries.

Dr. Kelej said so far Merck Foundation has sponsored specialized trainings for more than 80 new oncologists from 26 countries, 156 Medical graduates in Diabetes management and preventive cardiovascular medicine and more than 180 fertility specialists and embryologists from 35 countries.
In Zimbabwe the Foundation has partnered with the First Lady Office and the Ministry of Health and about 10 medical personnel were selected to study Medical Oncology, Oncology Research, Surgical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, fertility and embryology.
3 fertility specialists concluded their studies and are back in Zimbabwe to helping people with fertility challenges.
Merck Foundation started the partnership with the First Lady Madame Auxillia Mnangagwa in 2019 and she is the Merck More than a mother ambassador in Zimbabwe joining other African First Ladies as ambassadors of the same cause.
Madame Mnangagwa has since hailed Merck Foundation for putting up initiatives that improve the lives of Africans.
“This partnership will not just strengthen the Zimbabwean health system, it will also help us tackle one of the most neglected filed amongst us which is fertility”. Said the First Lady.
She said Merck Foundation´s initiative on fertility has a good package of sensitizations and doctor trainings so that when communities get the message they should be able to access the services.
About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign;
“Merck More Than a Mother” initiative aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and health and by changing mind-sets. This powerful initiative supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention and management. In partnership with academia, ministries of health and international fertility societies, the initiative also provides medical education and training for healthcare providers and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.
With “Merck More than a mother”, the Foundation has initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility on all levels: By improving awareness, training the skills of local experts, building advocacy in cooperation with decision makers and by supporting childless women in starting their own small business. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child.

Also, part of the campaign, is the Merck Embryology & Fertility Training Program, a three-month hands-on practical course in partnership with IRSI, Indonesia, IIRRH, India and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (Manipal University), India to establish the platform of fertility specialists across Africa and developing countries. Merck Foundation provided for more than 84 candidates, in clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 29 countries across Africa and Asia such as: Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire , Ghana, Ethiopia , Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania , Zambia , Nigeria, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameron, Rwanda, Botswana, DR Congo , Congo Brazzaville, Gambia , Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Cambodia.
Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Ethiopia and Uganda.
Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck more than a Mother such as;
• Merck More than a Mother media recognition award and health media training
• Merck More than a Mother fashion award
• Merck More than a Mother film award
• Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it
About Merck Oncology Fellowship Program:
The Merck Oncology Fellowship Program, a key initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program, focuses on building additional capacity through medical education and training. The lack of financial means is not the only challenge in Africa and developing countries, but a scarcity of trained health care personnel capable to tackle the prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer at all levels of the health care systems is even a bigger challenge.

Merck Oncology Fellowship Program focuses on building professional cancer care capacity with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa and Developing countries. The program provides One-year fellowship program at Tata Memorial Centre – India, One and half-years Oncology Fellowship programs at University of Malaya – Malaysia, Two years Oncology Fellowship Program at University of Nairobi – Kenya and Two years Master degree in Medical, Surgical, Pediatric and Radiation Oncology at Cairo University – Egypt, in partnership with African Ministries of Health, Local Governments and Academia.

Launched in 2016, over 43 candidates from more than 21 African countries have rolled in the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program. The program will continue to build cancer care capability in all African countries.

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