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Merck Foundation and African first ladies to transform and advance cancer care sector in Africa

By: Emmanuel T. Forson

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, in partnership with African first ladies and ministries of health, has pledged its support to increase the number of medical oncologists across the African continent.

The initiative is part of the foundation’s “Cancer Access Program” which is geared towards building cancer care capacities and improving the overall wellbeing of people.

The announcement was made by the foundation during activities to mark this year’s World Cancer Day which falls on February 4, 2021.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “I am and I will”.

Who is an oncologist?

An oncologist is a doctor who treats cancer and provides medical care for persons diagnosed with cancer.

Proper healthcare service

The CEO of Merck Foundation, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, expressed the foundations’ success at reshaping and advancing the public cancer care sector which has seen an increase of first-time professional oncologists in 24 countries.

Senator Kelej, who is the Most Influential African (2019 & 2020) & African Woman of The Year 2020, said her outfit’s key objective is to provide quality and equitable care to patients who are handicapped.

“We at Merck Foundation strive to make the African healthcare professionals highly competent and fully independent by providing the best in class multidisciplinary oncology and cancer care training to young doctors from all over Africa.

Senator Kelej with some medical professionals.

“And to form a Multidisciplinary Oncology Care teams in many countries consist of medical, surgery, pediatrics, gynecology, radiation oncologists, nursing, pathologist and radiology technicians,” she said.

She revealed that her outfit was making history in Africa by training the first oncologists and first cancer care teams in countries such as The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad, and Niger.

Other remarks

The First Lady of Burundi, H.E. Madam Angeline Ndayishimiye, expressed her excitement at partnering with the foundation to provide specialty training to the first-ever oncologist from Burundi.

According to her, the partnership presents the opportunity to enroll more doctors in the upcoming batches in various specialties of oncology, adding that the initiative has the aim to establish a skilled team that would improve access to quality and equitable cancer care in Burundi.

Senator Kelej with H.E. Madam Angeline Ndayishimiye (right)

“I appreciate the unique efforts of Merck Foundation in this regard, this is the first time we are receiving this kind of support and it will help us to have our own specialists,” she said.

For her part, the First Lady of Zimbabwe, H.E. Mrs. Auxillia Mnangagwa, said the Merck Foundation would provide valuable specialty oncology training to young Zimbabwean doctors.

She revealed that the initiative would empower healthcare professionals in the country with advanced training and medical expertise in overall oncology care, adding that “the move would help the people of our country to fight this deadly [oncology] disease.”



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