Empowering Africa’s Health Leaders and Advocating for Women’s Health


"Merck Foundation's Annual Alumni Summit 2023

By Calister Bonareri

The Merck Foundation Annual Alumni Summit 2023 took place on the 4th of May at the Sarova Panafric Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya. The summit is a platform for the scholarship winners to share how their pieces of training have impacted their lives and society. Merck Foundation CEO Senator Dr.Rasha Kelej and Standard Media Group MD Broadcast Division Mr. Joe Munene graced the event.

Merck Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, whose aim is to improve the health and well-being of people and advance their lives through Science and technology. They primarily focus on improving access to quality and equitable Healthcare solutions in undeserved communities. The foundation empowers people in Science, Technology, Engineering, and mathematics, focusing on women and youth.

Dr. Irene Hannah Njeri, a Consultant Physician at Kiambu Level 5, hospital spoke about how her training through the foundation has benefited her work there. She trained in diabetes and Endocrinology.

‘These courses have enabled me to pick up endocrinology disorders which are quite common but as a medic you must have a high index of suspicion to pick up such disorders. I had a patient who had a very rare dopamine secreting tumor of which I wouldn’t have picked it up were it not for the knowledge I gained in the courses I took.’

Dr.Faraj was also one of the alumni sponsored by the foundation to study for a postgraduate diploma in Respiratory Medicine and a Master’s in Science. His training has benefited the locals in Garissa County, where he works as a physician in a remote medical center. Most people in this region are underprivileged and unable to access specialized treatment due to a shortage of specialist doctors. The training has helped Dr.Faraj improve care at the local medical,center, where he has established specialized clinics for chest diseases rampant in North Eastern. He has also been able to train Kenya Medical Training College students on identifying rare respiratory diseases.

The event saw media awards winners awarded for producing stories of impact in regards to the ‘More than a Mother’ project. In Africa, infertility is a woman’s issue, and this is due to a lack of information. These stories show how stigmatized women or couples are if they don’t have children. Most families that deal with infertility have a high chance of gender-based violence. The project communicates that women are more than mothers.

“We need to stop social pressure. Blaming and nagging women or men to have children has adverse effects to our society. Women can be more than mothers and men can be more than fathers. They can still be valuable people in society,” insisted Dr.Rasha Kelej.

Seven hundred scholarships have been given in Africa by the Foundation for Fertility Specialists, embryologists, and sexual reproductive care. This is so that remote areas in Africa can access specialists who can provide care, treatment, and information on issues related to infertility. Dr.Rasha noted that one in every four couples deals with infertility issues, but eighty-five percent of these issues can be prevented due to untreated infectious diseases.

The Merck Foundation also launched the 2nd season of ‘Our Africa Tv program’ to be aired on KTN Home. The show aims to raise awareness about various topics, such as gender-based violence, girl education, female genital mutilation, ending child marriage, the stigma of infertility, and diabetes through fashion and art.

Standard media group Managing Director Broadcast Division, Mr. Joe Munene, said that the media and art have a big role in the sensitization of the community.

“A lot of good work is happening in the technical fields, but a lot of it is not amplified. The media has invested heavily in innovations to ensure these results are put out to the community,’ added Mr.Munene.

You can watch the show every Saturday at 5 PM and every Wednesday at 6.30 Am on KTN Home.

Some of Kenya’s Media Recognition Awards winners were radio presenter Mercy Tyra of Media Max, Elizabeth Angira from The Sun weekly online, Beldine Waliaula from the Standard Media Group, and Puline Odhiambo from BBC, among others.

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