By Samuel Ouma
The 8th edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary conference officially began today on a virtual platform.
The three-day conference was inaugurated by Zambian President H.E. Mr. Edgar Lungu and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg, the chairman of both the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees.
It was co-chaired by the First Lady of Zambia, H.E. Esther Lungu, and Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Mark Foundation.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the 8th Edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary, 2021 in partnership with Government of Zambia and co-chaired by my wife the First Lady of Zambia – H.E. Mrs. ESTHER LUNGU. Moreover, we are also happy to celebrate together the 4th Anniversary of Merck Foundation – our long term partner,” said H.E. Edgar Lungu.
The medical and social educational conference aims to improve access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions & build healthcare capacity in the fields of Diabetes, Fertility, Oncology, women’s health, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory and Acute Medicine. The foundation will also be celebrating its 4th anniversary.
The conference brings together more than 32,000 participants such as healthcare providers, policymakers, academia, researchers, and Health media from more than 70 countries from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Other attendees are 17 First Ladies of Africa and African Ministers from different sectors.
In his inauguration speech, Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg called on ministers and health experts from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the rest of the world to join hands to realize Merck Foundation’s visions stating that everyone in the world deserves to live a happy and fulfilling life.
Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg further disclosed that through Merck more than a Mother campaign in 35 countries, they have provided 180 doctors with Fertility specialists and embryology training programs and another 155 doctors with a one-year diploma and two-year master degree in sexual and reproductive health from the U.K. university which will improve women health in general and reproductive health in particular.
He added that the foundation would this year start issuing more scholarships in more specialties such as internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health: Orthopedic Trauma, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine, Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology, and infectious diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma, and orthopedics.
On her side, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej said they could not conduct the annual conference physically in Zambia as planned due to the global pandemic of Covid-19.
She noted that More than 1100 doctor from 42 countries have benefited from Merck Foundation scholarship in the fields of Diabetes, cardiovascular, endocrinology, Cancer, Research, Fertility Care, Women Health, Sexual & Reproductive care, Respiratory Medicines, and Acute Medicines, and more to join in the future to benefit from other specialties.
“Merck Foundation started this smart capacity building strategy in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health and Medical Societies since 2012, which contributed significantly towards transforming and reshaping the landscape of the public healthcare sector and towards advancing patient care in 42 countries. It is history in the making,” said Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej.
“Together we will discuss our strategy realization to build healthcare capacity, respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, provide the necessary training to establish a strong platform of experts in many important and critical specialties in their countries in collaboration with their Offices and Ministries of Health,” she added.
During the conference, sacrifices and efforts of everyday heroes and medical workers during the Cov-19 would be acknowledged, said Dr. Kelej.
She further thanked all their partners for their valuable participation and support that have brought progress to the foundation.