First ladies in Africa have pledged to collectively partner “Merck More Than A Woman” initiative to create greater awareness of infertility and cancers which are perceived mostly to afflict women.
The First Ladies of Ghana, Senegal, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone and Zambia made the pledge at the opening ceremony of the fifth edition of the “Merck Africa Asia Luminary” conference, in Dakar, Senegal.
The two-day event coincided with the first anniversary of Merck Foundation and the 350-year milestone of Merck Germany.
Merck More Than “A Mother” campaign seeks more partnerships with Africa and Asia towards eliminating challenges confronting the health sector.
Ghana’s First Lady
Ghana’s First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, and her colleagues pledged to become ambassadors of infertility and partner with Merck Foundation to mainstream issues of childlessness in women which led to violence, discrimination, stigma and ostracism by the society.
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She gave an assurance that her office would partner the Ghana Fertility Society to demystify the name-calling associated with childlessness when empirical research showed that over 50 per cent of the difficulties to conceive was as a result of male-related problems.
The First Lady of Senegal Mrs Mareame Sall, said there was a good relationship between health and quality of life and promised to strive to achieve that for the people in Senegal.
For her part, the First Lady of Sierra Leone, Mrs Fatima Maada Bio, said there was the need to change the narrative and socio-cultural attitudes that compounded the issue of childlessness and called for an emergency programme to assist women, especially in her country.
She appealed to Merck Foundation and global development partners to come to the aid of the country to construct a specialised cancer care unit for diagnosis and treatment, as well as training of experts to save lives.
The Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation, Dr Rasha Kelej, said: “Our aim is to contribute to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions and capacity in the field of diabetes, oncology, hypertension and infertility.”
Dr Kelej, who is also the President of Merck More Than “A Mother” campaign, said MF was focusing on implementing a project in partnership with First Ladies’ offices across Africa towards mainstreaming the ‘Merck More Than A Mother’ initiative, Merck Oncology (Cancer) Access Programme and called for enrolment of diabetes experts which had already attracted 45 countries and still counting.
She disclosed that 84 embryologists and fertility experts had completed training modules in a bid to overcome the challenges of infertility and its associated stigma.
Dr Kelej said the Merck Foundation would train more professionals to take up the task of assisting the masses, especially women.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Merck Foundation, Professor Dr Frank Strangenberg, mentioned that the foundation would scale up its scholarship scheme towards the training of the requisite professionals.
Opening the conference, the Prime Minister of Senegal, Mr Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne, noted that individual lifestyles, unguarded high cholesterol diets and lack of exercise were compounding healthcare issues , especially in fertility, oncology, diabetes and hypertension.