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Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com) to launch their programs in partnership with First Lady of Malawi and Ministries of Health, Information, Education and Gender; Merck foundation to train Malawian doctors in the fields Cancer, Diabetes and Fertility Care to improve access to equitable and quality healthcare in the country; Merck Foundation to launch a storybook to teach children and youth strong family values of love and respect- Limbani and Takondwa’s Story; Merck Foundation to launch the “Merck More Than a Mother” Media Recognition Awards and the first Health Media Training to eliminate infertility stigma and sensitize Malawian communities; Merck Foundation to also launch ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Fashion Awards to create a meaningful fashion trend aiming to educate our communities that ‘Fertility is a Shared Responsibility’.

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany in partnership with The First Lady of Malawi, H.E. PROF. GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA together with Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Information and Ministry of Gender launched their programs to build equitable and quality healthcare capacity and break the infertility stigma in the country.

H.E. PROF. GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother emphasized, “I am happy to welcome Merck Foundation to officially launch their programs which are going to be very beneficial for the people of our country. These programs will prove very significant in creating an impact on our people’s advancement, as health is very critical to our social and economic development. The programs will also help to break the stigma of infertility across the country which is very critical. We are happy that Merck Foundation understands our culture and working closely with Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck foundation as an African woman adds value to the success of the programs since she is coming from similar background.”

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother explained, “It is very important for us to underscore our long term partnership with H.E. PROF. GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother to build healthcare capacity in the country. We will be training Malawian doctors in the fields of Diabetes, Fertility and Cancer care in partnership with the Government of Malawi. Our aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of people of the continent.”

During the launch program, Merck Foundation together with The First Lady of Malawi and Ministry of Education and Ministry of Information also launched an inspiring children story of Limbani and Takondwa for children to strengthen family values of love and respect since young ages which will reflect on eliminating the stigma of infertility and resulted domestic violence in the future.

The book has a special message from H.E. PROF. GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother addressed to the young readers.

Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized, “The aim of this story is to emphasize strong family values of love and respect from young age. The story of Limbani and Takondwa is a story of a husband and wife who couldn’t have children but they never lost love or respect for each other, the man supported his wife during the fertility treatment journey and acknowledged that he too can be the cause of infertility and lived happily ever after. He also acknowledged that even if they both couldn’t bring children for any reason that they will still love and respect each other’s because they are more than parents.

It’s important for parents and caregivers to start teaching their children respect and nurturing empathy from a very young age. We should teach boys these qualities at their schools and through media. I believe both boys and girls need the same kind of guidance.”

Merck Foundation also plans to introduce other unique initiatives in the country to create the desired culture shift with regard to breaking the stigma around infertility.

“Few initiatives include announcing the ‘Merck more than a Mother’ Media Recognition Award and Health Media Training for the first time in the country in partnership with The First Lady of Malawi together with Ministry of Health and Ministry of Information. Also, creating songs in partnership with local artists to address the stigma related to infertility and educate people across the country. In addition to involving fashion industry to deliver the message of breaking the stigma of infertile women to the community in day to day life which will be achieved by launching ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Fashion Awards”, added Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Moreover, Merck foundation will be providing clinical training on fertility specialty in partnership with ministry of health to improve access to quality and equitable fertility care in the country.

Merck Foundation will also continue enrolling doctors from Malawi in their one year oncology fellowship program as a contribution to improve cancer care in the country.

Merck foundation will also continue to enroll doctors in Diabetes Diploma as part of their Diabetes Blue Points Project.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Merck Foundation.

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About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign: “Merck More Than a Mother” initiative aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and health and by changing mind-sets. This powerful initiative supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention and management. In partnership with academia, ministries of health and international fertility societies, the initiative also provides medical education and training for healthcare providers and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

With “Merck More than a mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility on all levels: By improving awareness, training the skills of local experts, building advocacy in cooperation with decision makers and by supporting childless women in starting their own small business. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child. 

The Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” are: H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic; H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of Chad; H.E. ANTOINETTE SASSOU-NGUESSO, The First Lady of Congo; H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH-BARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia; H.E. CONDÉ DJENE, The First Lady of Guinea Conakry; H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Republic of Liberia; H.E. PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi; H.E. DR. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique; H.E AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADO, The First Lady of Niger; H.E FATIMA MAADA, The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGW, The First Lady of Zimbabwe; H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia.

Also, part of the campaign is our Merck Embryology & Fertility Training Program, a three-month hands-on practical course in partnership with IRSI, Indonesia, IIRRH, India and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (Manipal University), India to establish the platform of fertility specialists across Africa and developing countries. Merck Foundation provided for more than 109 candidates, in clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 30 countries across Africa and Asia such as: Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire , Ghana, Ethiopia , Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania , Zambia , Nigeria, Benin, Mali, Burkina Fuso, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameron, Rwanda, Botswana, DR Congo , Congo Brazzaville, Gambia , Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Ethiopia and Uganda. 

Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck more than a Mother such as:

• Merck More than a Mother media recognition award and health media training  • Merck More than a Mother fashion award  • Merck More than a Mother film award  • Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it

About Merck Oncology Fellowship Program: The Merck Oncology Fellowship Program, a key initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program, focuses on building additional capacity through medical education and training. The lack of financial means is not the only challenge in Africa and developing countries, but a scarcity of trained health care personnel capable to tackle the prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer at all levels of the health care systems is even a bigger challenge.

Merck Oncology Fellowship Program focuses on building professional cancer care capacity with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa and Developing countries. The program provides One-year fellowship program at Tata Memorial Centre – India, One and half-years Oncology Fellowship programs at University of Malaya – Malaysia, Two years Oncology Fellowship Program at University of Nairobi – Kenya and Two years Master degree in Medical, Surgical, Pediatric and Radiation Oncology at Cairo University – Egypt, in partnership with African Ministries of Health, Local Governments and Academia.

Launched in 2016, over 43 candidates from more than 21 African countries have rolled in the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program. The program will continue to build cancer care capability in African countries such as Botswana, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

About Merck Foundation: The Merck Foundation (Merck-Foundation.com), established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to innovative healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website. Please go to www.Merck-Foundation.com  to read more and/or register online to interact and exchange experience with our registered members.

About Merck: Merck (MerckGroup.com) is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Almost 53,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2017, Merck generated sales of € 15.3 billion in 66 countries.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma.

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