Merck Foundation CEO pledges commitment to improve healthcare in Africa, Asia
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Merck Foundation, Dr. Rasha Kelej, has expressed the commitment of Merck Foundation to continue to contribute to healthcare capacity advancement and patient care transformation in Africa and Asia.
She said the Foundation over the years had contributed to the training of healthcare practitioners in both Africa and Asia to help improve healthcare delivery, particularly in public health facilities.
Speaking at the 10th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2023 which is being held in India, Dr Kelej, said the Foundation had provided more than 1700 scholarships to young doctors from 50 countries in 42 critical and underserved specialties including diabetes, endocrinology, oncology, cardiovascular, fertility care, embryology, sexual & reproductive medicine, respiratory medicine, critical care, paediatric emergency, gastroenterology, rheumatology, clinical psychiatry, urology, and ophthalmology.
The conference, which is being conducted in a hybrid format— online and in-person, will attract more than 6000 participants from more than 70 countries.
Many African First Ladies, who are also Ambassadors of the Merck Foundation's "More Than a Mother" initiative also attended the event.
The participants are expected to discuss strategies and solutions for the health challenges in their countries with the aim to contribute to improving access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions and building media capacity and healthcare capacity in many critical and underserved medical fields.
Dr. Kelej, who is also the President of Merck Foundation "More Than a Mother" initiative explained that “We are making history and legacy in Africa by training the first Fertility specialists, Embryologists, Oncologists, Diabetes, Endocrinology, Respiratory experts and more in many countries like Liberia, The Gambia, Burundi, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Guinea and Ethiopia, Congo and more.”
She commended First Ladies in Africa for their support to the Foundation’s initiatives, particularly towards improving healthcare delivery in the areas of fertility, saying “Together with our partners like Africa’s First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Gender, Education and Communication, Academia, Medical societies, we are impacting the lives of people in the most disadvantaged communities in Africa, Asia and beyond.”
Dr. Kelej added, “I am proud to share that we have provided 138 scholarships to doctors from 28 countries for Oncology training. Most of these scholarships have been provided in India through our partners - Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai and Varanasi; Krishna World University, Karad; and BBCI, Assam.”
She said the Merck Foundation was also working hard to raise awareness on a wide range of sensitive and critical social and health issues such as supporting girl education, ending child marriage, stopping GBV, breaking infertility stigma, ending FGM, women empowerment, diabetes and hypertension awareness “through our various initiatives like Health Media Training, our 8 important awards for media, fashion designers, filmmakers and singers, songs, children storybook and also animation movies.”
The conference was also used to play an educative animation film that addresses diabetes prevention and early detection in Africa, titled “Sugar Free Jude.”
For Dr. Kelej, the Sugar Free Jude animation film was “huge step of ours towards using art and creativity to address different sensitive health and social issues in Africa,” urging all participants to share the film on their platforms in order for manty people to see the film.
Speaking at the event, the Chairman of both the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, expressed his happiness about the impact Merck Foundation had made in respect to improving healthcare delivery in Africa and Asia.
“I am very proud that Merck Foundation has been an outstanding and significant contributor towards transforming the patient care landscape in many countries across Africa, Asia and beyond since 2012,” he said.
He said many of the scholarships that the Foundation supported were conducted in India through their partnership with the Tata Memorial Center, Manipal University, Maharashtra University, Krishna University, and Indra IVF Training.
For Stangenberg-Haverkamp, many of Merck Foundation alumni have become and are becoming the very first specialists specially in the field of oncology and fertility care in their countries, such as in Liberia, Niger, Chad, The Gambia, Burundi,Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius, Guinea, Ethiopia, Congo, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
“I strongly believe that improved access to quality and equitable healthcare results in a nation's well-being, fostering economic growth, social stability, and individual prosperity,” he said, adding “It can transform the lives of individuals and families across developing countries by improving overall health and productivity.”
He said Merck Foundation was committed to improving the lives of people, stressing that “In this spirit, we will continue our efforts together with our partners – Your Excellencies, The First Ladies of Africa, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, Academia, Policymakers, Medical Societies, Academia, Media and Art communities; to lead Africa and Asia to a healthier and better future.”