Merck Foundation Reaffirms Commitment to Support Uganda’s Health Sector



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Kampala- 27/08/2017- The Government of Uganda has received support from Merck Foundation, a non-profit organization and a subsidiary of Merck Group, in terms of capacity building with special focus on cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, infertility and cancer. This commitment was re-echoed during a visit to Uganda by the CEO, Merck Foundation, Dr. Rasha Kelej, and Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board, Prof. Dr. Frank Stagenberg-Haverkamp. During the high-level meeting between the Prime Minister of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Minister of State for Health - General Duties, Hon. Sarah Opendi, Chairman of the Executive Board, Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp and the CEO of Merck Foundation Dr Rasha Kelej, Merck Foundation affirmed their commitment to long term partnership with the Government of Uganda to continue their efforts to improve access to healthcare solutions across the country. This partnership started in 2012. During their visit to the newly constructed State- of-the- Art Mulago Women’s Hospital: Maternal and Neonatal Centre, Merck Foundation reiterated their commitment to support the training of embryologists and fertility specialists and the establishment of the first public In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) center in the Women’s hospital which will be the first in sub-Saharan Africa as well. The establishment of the first public IVF center aims to improve access to regulated and cost-effective fertility care across Uganda and the rest of the region. Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Board of Trustees of Merck foundation emphasized his commitment to working with Uganda’ Ministry of Health because of the continuous support and tireless efforts put in by the Government of Uganda in elevating the health of the population. “What I have seen at Mulago Women’s Hospital, clearly meets and is in line with European standards, and we are happy to see positive results yielding from our efforts” Prof. Frank said. During their stay in Uganda, together with Hon. Sarah Opendi, the team from Merck foundation visited various health institutions and rural communities. The team visited rural villages in Tororo District where ‘Merck More than a Mother’ campaign has established various income generating projects to support women grappling with infertility. The Merck Foundation handed over an ox plough, poultry farms and table banking projects to ‘Merck more than a Mother’ women groups to empower them socially and economically. Hon. Opendi applauded the foundation for injecting resources to help level the ground for infertile women in Tororo District and Uganda at large. “It is heartbreaking to note that several marriages are breaking as a result of failing to give birth to children and most men throw blame on the women yet statistics indicate that 50% of those infertile are men” she said. “I urge men to go for medical tests in case such situations arise such that they are able to detect who has the problem rather than blaming one another for this challenge” Hon. Opendi advised. She added that research has revealed that such actions have endangered many couples to contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), as women opt to cheat to test their productivity. ‘Merck More than a Mother’ campaign focuses on empowering infertile women through access to information, awareness, health education, change of mind set and economic support in addition to building fertility care capacity across the continent. “One of my most fulfilling moments is seeing these childless women lead happy and independent lives. Our partnership with Ministry of Health is paramount in raising awareness about infertility prevention and management and break the stigma around infertile women. This is quite a transformation” Dr. Rasha Kelej noted. “Raising awareness about male infertility is very important to change the culture as infertility affects both men and women in equal measure and yet all the blame has solely been put on women; they are discriminated and mistreated in their communities. The campaign will address this topic and encourage men to discuss openly their infertility and share the journey of infertility diagnosis and treatment with their wives,” Dr. Kelej added. The team from Merck Foundation also visited the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), and commended the high standards of the facility, for both treatment and research. The Executive Director of UCI, Dr. Jackson Oryem noted that the institute is constrained by inadequate human and financial resources, in their endeavor to become a world class destination for high qualitycare and research. The Merck team committed to support the institute in providing technological assistance and capacity building of oncologists; this institute being the only one of its kind in the region. “Under the Merck Cancer Access Program, we shall provide one, two and three - year oncology fellowship programs to doctors and technicians in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Uganda, with the aim of increasing the limited number of oncologists in the country and across Africa” said Dr. Rasha Kelej. “Cancer prevalence in Uganda is the highest in East Africa, with about 300 cases reported in every 1,000 people.” Hon. Opendi said. She appreciated the continued support in healthcare in the country from Merck Foundation.

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