By Josephine Akaerr
The philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany Merck Foundation in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health, is continuing to provide one, two- and three-year Oncology Fellowship and Master degree for African doctors through their Cancer Access Programme with the aim to increase the limited number of Oncologists across the continent.
CEO of Merck Foundation and One of 100 Most Influential Africans Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized, “Our strategy is to develop a Multidisciplinary Oncology Care team in each country such as; Medical, Surgery, Pediatric, Gynecology, Radiation Oncologists, Nursing, Pathologist and Radiology Technician. As an African woman, I am proud that we are making history in Africa through training the first oncologists and first cancer care teams in many countries such as; The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger.
Our main objective is to provide quality and affordable care to patients who never had anyone to care of them before”.
The First Lady of The Gambia, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow said, “I am very proud with this programme that added great value to my country The Gambia, by providing specialty training the first oncologists in my country.”
The First Lady of Liberia, Clar Marie Weah emphasized, “Merck Foundation is the first Foundation that provided this valuable specialty training to first oncologists in Liberia. They are also providing the training for the first fertility specialists, embryologists and diabetes specialists in my country Liberia.
In partnership with my office, Merck Foundation will also provide on line one year diploma and two year master degree in Respiratory Medicines, Cardiovascular Medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Acute medicines and Endocrinology for Liberia and of course the rest Africa.”
As per the data, the burden of cancer in Africa is growing with recent estimates reporting 1.06 million new diagnosed cancer cases per year. This figure is expected to increase by 102 per cent to 2.12 million by 2040. While the burden of cancer in Africa is rapidly rising, there is a very limited number of oncologists and there is also a lack of investment in building professional cancer care capacity across the continent.
“Therefore, we strongly believe that building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to address this pressing challenge. It is an on-going initiative as the aim is to build cancer care capacity and we plan to scale it up to train more doctors in more African countries” added Dr. Rasha Kelej.
Launched in 2016, the Merck Cancer Access Programme provides One-, two- and three-years fellowship and master degree programs for African doctors in India, Egypt, Kenya and Malaysia.
Merck Foundation through its Merck Cancer Access Programme has till date trained more than 80 Oncology Care Specialists from 26 countries which are: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinee, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.