… As 9th Merck Foundation’s Africa Asia Luminary Conference holds

By Chioma Obinna

Wives of African Presidents and Merck Foundation have condemned all forms of stigma and discrimination against couples who have difficulties in having children of their own.

The First Ladies who took turns to praise Merck Foundation for providing access to quality healthcare in the region at the 9th Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary Conference in Dubia agreed that a positive attitude would help demystify challenges infertile couples face.

In her submission at the event graced by the African First Ladies, healthcare practitioners, journalists, and academias, the First Lady of Ghana,  Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo said the stigma against childless couples was a ‘gross injustice’.

Akufo-Addo who lamented the pains childless couples go through, recalled the stigma and trauma infertile women go through while she was growing up.

She added that Merck Foundation’s “More Than a Mother” initiative, designed to break the stigma around infertility really touches the heart of first ladies like her as it seeks to throw light on infertility and its attendant stigma, particularly against women.

Akufo-Addo called for a cultural shift that supports women and society.

“The support provided by Merck Foundation to support infertility and other medical conditions in Ghana has been immense and through the support, Ghana has received an opportunity for specialist training for some Ghanaian medical officers.”

Speaking, the First Lady of Malawi, Monica Chakwera called for a behavioural and mindset change to demystify the challenges infertile women and couples face in Africa.

 Chakwe pledged her support to improve the welfare of infertile women who are vulnerable to forms of abuse.  “On behalf of the people of Malawi, we welcome the long-term partnership with Merck Foundation and with all of you First Ladies of Africa to establish a strong platform of specialised and well-trained health experts to transform the healthcare sector in Malawi.”

Also in her submission, the First lady of Botswana who noted the Merck Foundation’s contribution in ensuring that African countries have quality and equitable healthcare capacity,  said the partnership will help ensure that there is healthcare for all by 2030.

In his welcome address, Chief Executive officer of the Merck Foundation, Dr. Rasha Kelej, commended African First Ladies for their contribution to breaking infertility stigma on the African Continent and training more specialised doctors for the continent.

Senator Kelej explained that the Foundation’s flagship programme, the Merck Foundation’s ‘More Than a Mother initiative’ was designed to break the stigma around infertility in Africa.

Kelej who is at the forefront of Merck Foundation’s programmes said they have been contributing to the transformation of the patient care landscape in public healthcare sectors in Africa and developing countries.

She expressed hope that the conference will help to discuss strategies and solutions to improve quality healthcare delivery in various African countries as well as in parts of Asia and Latin America.

“I am proud that in partnership with 20 African First Ladies as Ambassadors of More Than a Mother” Campaign, we have provided more than 1470 scholarships to young doctors from 50 countries. Scholarships of one-year, two-year, and three-year Diploma and Master’s Degrees in more than 32 critical and underserved specialities are provided to these doctors. I am very proud that out of these over 650 are female medical graduates. This is close to 50 per cent of the total beneficiaries, which is a great milestone for us.”

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