Ghana is to play host to the sixth edition of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary forum, according to Dr Rasha Kelej, Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation.
She said Merck Foundation is finalizing moves to collaborate with the Office of the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the Rebecca Foundation, the Ministry of Health and partners in Ghana as the official announcement to declare the intention to that effect was made.
Dr Kelej disclosed these on the gains of the Foundation in Africa and Asia in 2018 in an interview with the Ghana News Agency.
She said 10 First Ladies including Mrs Akufo-Addo, who have jointly committed to becoming ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Campaign Ambassadors to build bridges between society, men and women, who are perceived infertile and therefore subjected to abuses and stigma, participated in the fifth edition, staged in Dakar, Senegal, this year.
She said Merck Foundation, the benevolent entity of Merck KGaA Germany envisages the partnership between the Foundation and its development partners in Africa and Asia would move a notch higher in the ensuing years.
Dr Kelej, doubling as President of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign said the magnitudes of the healthcare challenges are enormous and a collaborative effort through a private public partnership could shore up results in a sustainable manner.
“The future will be brighter if we cooperate together,” she outlines.
She disclosed that Merck Foundation will launch it operations in Burundi, Botswana, Zambia, Liberia in 2019 and hopes to extend operations into DRC, Congo Brazzavile, Guinea Conakry, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Benin and Cameroon.
She lamented about the challenge of connecting flights between cities and countries, but agreed that the infrastructural deficits were being aggressively confronted by continental governments.
She said Merck Foundation was focused primarily on raising awareness about non-communicable diseases, empowering women and the youth, improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity in the field of diabetes, hypertension, cancer and fertility care.
“Our vision is to see a world where everyone can lead a healthy and fulfilling life.”
The CEO indicated similar projects were ongoing in Asia, specifically, in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Cambodia and positive to expand into Latin America by 2020.
She said 43 candidates from more than 21 countries have been enrolled in the Merck Oncology Fellowship programme, a one-to-two year Fellowship and Master’s degree in collaboration with the Cairo University in Egypt, Tata Memorial Centre in India and Malaya University in Malaysia as well as University of Nairobi in Kenya.
She said this was an ongoing initiative, which focused on building professional cancer experts, aimed to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa and especially countries with no experts in countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia as well as others with insufficient ones like Chad, Niger and Central Africa Republic.
Merck Foundation has supported the establishment of first ever public In-Vitro Fertilisation centres in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Uganda and again, supports governments to define policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care raising awareness about infertility prevention and management and break the stigma around infertility, she added.
Dr Kelej said the Foundation was collaborating with the media, a critical partner and depending on the expertise of the arts and culture through songs and drama, to mainstream the production of drama (play documentation) to create culture shift, raising awareness and exploring African talents.
She was optimistic with the right partnerships its impact on the society will be immeasurable.