First ladies in the African region have pledged to ensure access to quality and equitable healthcare in their various countries and the region.
Thirteen first ladies made the commitment during the ongoing 8th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary virtual conference held in partnership with the Government of Zambia.
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Over 2000 participants from over 70 countries, and drawn from the health sector, academia, policy makers and the media are participating in the meeting.
While enumerating the milestones of Merck Foundation in addressing healthcare challenges in their various countries, the first ladies also promised to continue to partner with the foundation to build the capacity of health personnel and address stigma around infertility in the region .
Those taking part in the programme are the First Ladies of Ghana, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, Liberia, Clar Marie Weah, Zambia, Esther Lungu, Angola, Ana Dias Lourenço, Botswana, Neo Jane Masisi, and Burkina Faso Sika Kabore.
Others are First ladies of Guinea , Djènè Condé, Burundi, Angeline Ndayishimiye, Central African Republic, Brigitte Touadera, Democratic Republic of Congo , Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi, Malawi, Monica Chakwera, Mozambique, Isaura Ferrão Nyusi and Namibia , Monica Geingos.
Madam Brigitte Touadera, the First Lady of the Central African Republic said, “On behalf of the Central African Republic, we are very proud and happy to partner with Merck Foundation and work closely with them to support us to advance and build our healthcare capacity in the Central Africa Republic and the rest of Africa.
“Till today we have enrolled 13 local doctors in the specialty training of oncology and diabetes and I will continue working closely with our ministry of health to identify the right candidates who will join the oncology, diabetes and fertility training and fellowship.
“Together with Merck Foundation, I am fully committed to work closely to introduce innovative ideas that will engage different sectors to create a culture shift with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and make a great impact in a short time.”
Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the First Lady of Ghana, said the partnership with the foundation, has enabled the country provide more than 60 healthcare providers with specialty training in the fields of cancer, diabetes, cardiology, endocrinology, respiratory, acute medicines, sexual and reproductive medicines, fertility and embryology.
“All these fields are very critical to our country. And definitely, this will contribute to our battle against coronavirus and other diseases. We are also working closely on ‘Educating Linda’ program to inspire girls and sensitize communities about the importance of girl education,” she said.
Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation, said the foundation started the capacity building strategy in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health and medical societies since 2012, adding that it contributed significantly towards transforming the landscape of the public healthcare sector and towards advancing patient care in 42 countries.
She said more than 1, 100 doctors from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship and that more will join in the next few years to benefit from more scholarships in more specialties .
Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp , Chairman of Board of Trustees , Merck Foundation , and Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG, said the foundation in response to the pandemic focused on supporting livelihoods of thousands of women and casual workers‘ families affected in more than 18 countries .
Inaugurating the conference, President of Zambia, Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, said human resource for health is a critical investment in ensuring that people are healthy and productive. He enjoined African countries to continue programmes that build health capacity and train healthcare providers at all levels.