By Eric Ojo, Abuja
Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany, a leading science and technology company in the healthcare sector, has reaffirmed its commitment to improving service delivery to cancer patients in Africa.
The Foundation aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology, with particular focus on underserved communities.
It also engages in building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth.
The Foundation is currently partnering with Egypt’s National Cancer Institute to provide Master Degree in Medical Oncology for African doctors. This initiative is a part of Merck Foundation’s ‘Merck Cancer Access Programme’ which was primarily initiated to increase the limited number of oncologists across Africa.
By supporting Africa through its partnership with Egypt, the Foundation hopes to also build the Cancer Care Capacity in the African continent. Through this partnership, it aims to provide two-year Medical Oncology Master Degree program for African doctors.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Merck Foundation, Dr. Rasha Kelej, who gave the assurance in a statement made available to Metro Daily, said the Foundation is fully committed to improving patient’s access to care.
“We are pleased to announce our partnership with the National Cancer Institute, Egypt, which is considered as the benchmark of Cancer Care in Northern Africa and Middle East. We are committed to improve patient’s access to care”, he said.
Dr. Kelej disclosed that 5 students from Ghana, Namibia, Liberia and Rwanda, are already registered with the Master Degree programme in Medical Oncology under Merck Cancer Access Programme.
“We plan to expand this programme to more African countries like, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Senegal, Uganda and Kenya. We believe that our partnership in Egypt will go a long way and together we can play a vital role in Africa.
“I strongly believe that building capacity by having trained Oncologists in each African countries is pivotal, since lack of professional skills is the key challenge in Africa and developing countries”, he further explained.
While commending the programme, the Vice Dean of Egypt National Cancer Institute, Prof. Abdel-Rahman Zekri, observed that the collaboration in the field of academics will effectively enhance the capabilities to prevent, detect and treat the rising cases of cancer in these countries.
“We are pleased to announce our partnership with Merck Foundation to support in building cancer care capacity in rest of African countries”, he added.
Also in his remarks, the Dean of the institute, Prof. Dr. Hatem Ahmed Aboulkassem, noted that the partnership will be very beneficial to the continent because it is a aimed at addressing the major constraints in the sector.
“The scarcity of trained healthcare personnel capable of tackling prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer is a bigger challenge, and therefore, this partnership will prove to be very beneficial for many African countries”, he added.
Apart from the Merck Cancer Access Programme, the Foundation has also initiated other activities in partnership with academia, ministries of health and the offices of First Ladies in more than 35 countries:
For instance, the Merck More Than A Mother which assisted more than 84 candidates to undergo three-month hands-on training to be embryologists and fertility specialists from 29 countries to improve quality, regulated and safe fertility care in developing countries.
The Foundation equally organizes the Merck Diabetes and Hypertension Awards. This is also targeted at ensuring that over 56 medical postgraduates will receive a one-year online diploma in diabetes or preventive cardiovascular medicines, as part of the effort to establish a platform of diabetes and hypertension experts in Africa and Asia.