African First Ladies discuss Healthcare Capacity Building and Infertility Stigma


-the Merck Foundation marked Cancer Awareness Month during the conference, emphasizing its efforts to provide 138 scholarships for Oncology Training-

Senator Dr Rasha Kelej, Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp together with African First Ladies/Image Courtesy

Mumbai, India 18th October 2023

African First Ladies Convene at Merck Foundation Luminary 2023 to Discuss Healthcare Capacity Building and Infertility Stigma.

The 10th Edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2023, held in partnership with Tata Memorial Centre and various government departments, brought together prominent figures from across the globe to address critical healthcare issues and celebrate a decade of impactful initiatives.

The conference was inaugurated by Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, and Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Chairperson of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary. A remarkable assembly of African First Ladies from eleven nations also graced the event.

The Luminary, held through a hybrid model, attracted over 10,000 participants, including healthcare providers, policymakers, researchers, academia, and media representatives from 70 English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese-speaking countries. This gathering aimed to advance healthcare capacity and raise awareness in 42 critical and underserved medical specialties.

Notable highlights from the conference included the celebration of the 6th anniversary of Merck Foundation and the acknowledgment of their 11-year journey of development programs. Merck Foundation’s commitment to healthcare was demonstrated by the provision of 1,700 scholarships to doctors from 50 countries, particularly in critical areas such as Oncology, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Preventive, Endocrinology, and Fertility Care, among others.

Moreover, the Merck Foundation marked Cancer Awareness Month during the conference, emphasizing its efforts to provide 138 scholarships for Oncology Training in various sub-specialties to doctors from 37 African countries. This initiative has produced many of the first oncologists in their respective nations, highlighting the impact of the foundation’s programs in transforming patient care.

Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation, underscored the importance of the Luminary, stating, “I am very proud to welcome our Guests of Honors and Keynote Speakers, the First Ladies of Africa and Ambassadors of the ‘More Than a Mother’ Campaign, for our annual conference that we have conducted for the first time in India. Together, we shared experiences and discussed the impact of our programs to transform patient care and raise awareness on a wide range of sensitive and critical social and health issues.”

Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of both the Executive Board of E.Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, expressed the foundation’s overarching goal, saying, “At Merck Foundation, our goal is improving overall health and well-being by building healthcare capacity and by providing access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in Africa, Asia, and beyond.”

Day one of the conference featured a Plenary Session, during which a high-level panel meeting of the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Summit took place.

Day two is set to host five parallel Medical and Scientific Sessions, covering areas such as Oncology, Diabetes & Hypertension, Fertility and Reproductive Care, and medical capacity building in other specialties, including respiratory, acute care, emergency pediatric, and neonatal care.

Additionally, a community awareness session, the Merck Foundation Health Media Training session, will emphasize the vital role of African journalists in addressing issues such as breaking infertility stigma, supporting girl education, ending gender-based violence, child marriage, and promoting women’s empowerment.

The 10th Edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2023 was live-streamed on the social media handles of Merck Foundation and Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Participating countries in the Luminary included Angola, Kenya, India, Nigeria, the United States, Zimbabwe, and more.

Merck Foundation’s contributions extend beyond scholarships to doctors, with initiatives encompassing media training, awards, and cultural transformation. By empowering healthcare professionals and supporting communities in Africa and underserved regions, the foundation is making significant strides in improving healthcare and changing lives.

Established in 2017, the Merck Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany. Its primary focus is to enhance access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, develop healthcare and scientific research capacity, and empower individuals in STEM, with a special emphasis on women and youth.


Written by Calister Bonareri



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