Merck Foundation Calls For Action Together With 13 African First Ladies And 27 Ministers

  • To Build Healthcare Capacity, Break The Infertility Stigma And Support Girl Education

By Josephine Akaerr, Special Correspondent

The philanthropic arm of Merck KgaA, Merck Foundation conducted the 8th Edition of “Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary” 2021, through an online video conference.

The conference was inaugurated by the President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu and Chairman of both of Executive Board of E.Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp.

During the Luminary, Merck Foundation CEO & President of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother, Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized,  “I am very proud to have 20 African First Ladies partnered with Merck Foundation and become Ambassadors of our unique and historic campaign “Merck Foundation more than a Mother” to empower infertile women, eliminate the stigma around infertility and empower girls and women in education, in their countries. During the Luminary, the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Committee (MFFLI) was also conducted to discuss, follow up and monitor the ongoing programs that also include healthcare capacity building. We have so far provided scholarships in various medical specialties to 1100 Doctors from 42 countries.”

The keynote address at the 8th edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary was delivered by The First Lady of Zambia H.E. Esther Lungu, along with:

The First Lady Of Angola, H.E. Ana Dias Lourenço

The First Lady Of Botswana, H.E. Neo Jane Masisi

The First Lady Of Burkina Faso, H.E.  Sika Kabore

The First Lady Of Burundi, H.E. Angeline Ndayishimiye,

The First Lady Of Central African Republic, H.E.Brigitte Touadera

The First Lady Of The Democratic Republic Of The Congo, H.E. Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi

The First Lady Of Ghana, H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo

The First Lady Of Guinea Conakry, H.E. Djènè Condé

The First Lady Of Liberia, H.E. Clar Marie Weah

The First Lady Of Malawi, H.E. Monica Chakwera

The First Lady Of Mozambique, H.E.  Isaura Ferrão Nyusi and

The First Lady Of Namibia, H.E. Monica Geingos

During her welcome speech, The First Lady of Zambia & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother stated, H.E. Esther Lungu “I am delighted to host this prestigious conference. I am very proud of our partnership with Merck Foundation through which we have been able to achieve many outcomes in the country for the social and economic welfare of our people. Through my ambassadorship of Merck Foundation More than a Mother, we have been able to launch many initiatives to sensitize our communities about the sensitive issue of infertility and the stigma attached to it, and also emphasize on the importance of girls’ education. Moreover, we are reshaping the healthcare landscape of Zambia, as together we have enrolled and provided training to more than 90 young doctors from all provinces with specialty training in the fields of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory, Acute medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Fertility and Embryology. We are scaling up to more doctors and more critical specialties such as; Paediatric, Internal Medicines, and gastroenterology.”

The First Lady of Angola H.E. Ana dias Lourenço emphasized, “I am happy to virtually meet and join my sisters, First Ladies of Africa, as a Guest of Honour for the 8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary. we are working with Merck Foundation to shape the “Educating Linda” Program which aims to empower girls through education and eliminate child marriage and early pregnancy, this cause is very close to my heart and I consider it one of my main objectives as I strongly believe that Education is one of the most critical areas of women empowerment”.

The First Lady of Botswana & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Neo Jane Masisi said ”We started our partnership with Merck Foundation in 2018 and since then we have achieved very important milestones and we made a concrete impact in building quality and equitable healthcare capacity, advocation to break the stigma of infertility, and stopping Gender-Based Violence. Together we provided scholarships to more than 39 local Doctors in Botswana in different critical specialties which improve women’s health and advanced reproductive care in addition to advancing healthcare in many critical fields such as: Oncology, Endocrinology, Diabetes, Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Incentive Care and more”.

The First Lady of Burkina Faso & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H. E Sika Kabore stated “I am also very proud to be appointed the Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother, to empower infertile women through access to information, education, change of mindset, and economic empowerment and empower our girls through education. I am looking forward to starting our important long-term partnership with Merck Foundation and we are ready to capitalize on these valuable programs by scaling them up nationwide to contribute to the social and economic development of Burkina Faso”.

The First Lady of Burundi & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Angeline Ndayishimiye said “I am very proud of our partnership with Merck Foundation. Through our long-term partnership with Merck Foundation, 33 doctors have benefitted from the scholarships that Merck Foundation is providing in Oncology, Fertility specialty, embryology and reproductive and sexual medicines and Diabetes management. We will continue to work closely with Merck Foundation to create a culture shift with the aim to support girl education and empower women through access to education, health and change of mindset through media training and media awards, children storybooks, songs and films & fashion awards, and other innovative initiatives.”

The First Lady of Central African Republic & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Brigitte Touadera emphasized “We started our partnership with Merck Foundation in 2016, to advance the healthcare sector and empower infertile women in my country. Together, we initiated an important project “Empowering Berna” where we established small businesses for infertile women and train them to run their businesses so they can have income and become independent. Their lives have transformed since then. We are planning to provide school fees for 20 girls every year.  Moreover, so far we have enrolled 13 local doctors in specialty training of oncology and diabetes and I will continue working closely with our ministry of health to identify the right candidates who will join the oncology, diabetes and fertility training and fellowship”.

The First Lady of the Democratic Republic of The Congo & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi said, “I am extremely happy to be a part of this platform. I am happy with the impact we have had in a very short time. We have enrolled more than 40 doctors in various specialties. 7 have been enrolled for fertility and embryology training, 1 for oncology and more than 32 doctors, representing each province in DRC, have been enrolled for diabetes specialty training. After completing the training, these doctors will transform the Diabetes care in my country”.

The First Lady of Ghana & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo emphasized, “I have been working closely with Merck Foundation to empower infertile women as the attitude of the people towards these women is not progressive or informed. I am honoured to be the Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother, through this campaign I intend to help the women of my country. Moreover, we have been able to provide more than 60 doctors with scholarships for specialty training in the fields of Cancer, Diabetes, cardiology, endocrinology, respiratory, acute medicines, sexual and reproductive medicines, Fertility and embryology. All these fields are very critical to our country.  This will certainly contribute to our battle against coronavirus and other diseases”.

The First Lady of Guinea Conakry & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Djènè Condé explained, “I am delighted to share the magnificent outcomes of my long-term partnership with Merck Foundation. Together we have been able to empower infertile women through access to information, education, health, and change of mindset and establishing small businesses for them through the “Empowering Berna” program. Also, we have enrolled 18 local doctors into Merck Foundation Scholarship of different specialties; Oncology, Diabetes and Fertility & Embryology to be the first in the country in these fields. I feel proud to say that we are making history with Merck Foundation in our country at many levels”.

The First Lady of Liberia & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Clar Marie Weah said, “On behalf of people of Liberia, I welcome the long-term partnership with Merck Foundation to build health care capacity, the importance of which we realized more during this uncertain time. We are fortunate to have the programs of Merck Foundation in our country, which strongly focus on building our healthcare capacity and train our healthcare providers at all levels, more than 35 Liberian Doctors have benefited from scholarships of specialty training, of one-year diploma and two-year master degree in many critical and underserved specialties such as: Diabetes, Cardiovascular Preventive, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Endocrinology, Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines, Oncology and Fertility Specialists & Embryology Training and in the future in Paediatric, Internal Medicine, Advanced Surgery, Orthopedic, Psychiatry, Pain Management and Opthalmology. This is history in the making”.

The First Lady of Malawi & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Monica Chakwera expressed, “I am extremely happy of my partnership with Merck Foundation. Together, we have so far provides more than 16 local doctors with the scholarship of online one-year diploma and two year master degree in many needed medical specialties such as Diabetes, Cardiovascular, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Respiratory Medicines and Acute Medicines, they are currently undergoing their studies. And we are working with Ministry of Health to select the next batches for more specialities. Also, I am particularly very excited about our joint initiative “Educating Linda” where we are sponsoring the education of 20 best performing girls in their secondary schools till they graduate. I believe that Education is Power, and educating girls is empowering them to make their own decision and be independent”.

The First Lady of Mozambique & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Isaura Ferrão Nyusi emphasized, “Together with Merck Foundation, I am fully committed to will work closely to introduce innovative ideas that will engage different sectors to create a culture shift with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and make a great impact in a short time. Currently, we have 14 doctors from each provenance who enrolled in the Diabetes Master Course for the first time in Portuguese, through Merck Foundation Diabetes Blue Points Program. We will soon enroll doctors for training in other specialties too”.

The First Lady of Namibia & Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than A Mother H.E. Monica Geingos said “I am very happy to share the impact of our partnership with Merck Foundation, More than 37 local young Namibian doctors will be provided with one-year online diploma from South Wales University, in the fields of Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory Medicines, Acute Medicines and Sexual and Reproductive Medicines. We will establish our first local platform of specialists and experts in those fields which is very important to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare to Coronavirus Patients and risk groups too. For Namibia, 2.4 M population, we will soon have more than 11 skilled and trained doctors to assist couples living with infertility or need any sexual & reproductive help, this will be a significant contribution that I am proud of as an Ambassador of Merck Foundation More Than a Mother. We are also worth closely with Merck Foundation to raise awareness about breaking Infertility stigma and encourage couples to support each other’s during the journey of making happy family ”.

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