Merck Foundation Partners with African First Ladies to Improve Cancer Care on the Continent

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“Merck Foundation is the first Foundation that provided this valuable specialty training to the first oncologists in Liberia," said the country's First Lady, Clar Marie Weah.

Merck Foundation to make history in Africa by training the first African oncologists and cancer care teams in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger 

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health, says it continues to provide one, two- and three-year Oncology Fellowship and Master degree for African doctors through their Cancer Access Program with the aim to increase the limited number of Oncologists across the continent.

“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,” Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and one of the 100 Most Influential Africans, said in a statement. “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.”

Merck Foundation said it has provided one, two-and three-year Oncology Fellowship and Master degree for more than 80 Oncologists from 26 countries through their Cancer Access Program in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health of these countries.

“Merck Foundation is the first Foundation that provided this valuable specialty training to the first oncologists in Liberia,” said the country’s First Lady, Clar Marie Weah. “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, according to Merck, 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% 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 Program provides One-, two- and three-years fellowship and master degree programs for African doctors in India, Egypt, Kenya and Malaysia.

The 26 countries whose Oncology Care Specialists were trained by the Merck Cancer Access Program include: 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.

Established in 2017, the Merck Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany and aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth.

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