First Lady of the Republic, H.E. Mrs. Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo joined other African First Ladies on a virtual platform, for the 8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2021, which was held under the theme “Together we make a difference”.
The conference which was co-chaired by H.E. Esther Lungu, First Lady of the Republic of Zambia and Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation, was inaugurated by H.E. Mr. Edgar Lungu, The President of Zambia along with Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of both Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation Board of Trustees.
In attendance were Ministers of Health, Gender, Information, Education and Science & Technology from 25 African countries and more than 2000 healthcare providers, policymakers and media from over 70 countries as well as over 30,000 other participants.
Welcoming the participants, First Lady of the Republic of Zambia, H.E Mrs Esther Lungu said though Covid-19 has inhibited her from hosting her colleague First Ladies physically in the country, she was optimistic that the virtual conference will go a long way to help improve health and education in participating countries.
CEO of Merck Foundation, Dr. Rasha Kelej said the conference will discuss strategies to build healthcare capacity and establish of policy makers, healthcare providers, academia and media in an open dialogue on various topics with the aim to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare.
Outlining some benefits Ghana has derived from her partnership with Merck Foundation, in her keynote address, First Lady of Ghana, Mrs. Akufo-Addo stated that more than sixty healthcare providers have received critical training in the fields of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory and Acute Medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Fertility and Embryology. These, she said include twelve (12) doctors who have completed their one year diploma in Diabetes, eleven (11) in Cardiovascular Preventive Medicines, five ( ) doctors who have concluded a one year online Endocrinology programme, two (2) doctors who have also graduated from an Oncology Fellowship and one (1) doctor who is undergoing a Masters degree in Medical Oncology.
Additionally she said, seven candidates have undergone a three month Embryology course with four more enrolled in a Masters programme.
In direct response to the Corona Virus pandemic, Mrs. Akufo-Addo said Merck Foundation in partnership with The Rebecca Foundation, launched an inspiring storybook “Make The Right Choice. Stay at Home” and also successfully implemented the Stay at home, Media Recognition Awards to help to raise awareness on how to stay physically and mentally healthy, during these unsettling times. The Merck Foundation, she said, is also training some Ghanaian doctors in Respiratory and Acute Medicines. She however called for the urgent need to build robust health systems, to better prepare for global pandemics like Covid-19 stating,” the unthinkable toll of Covid-19 on health infrastructure has led to the realization that our health systems are not ready for a pandemic of such global magnitude. We all know this is by no means the last pandemic. There will be future pandemics and we have to be prepared”
The First Lady also informed participants of a soon-to-be-broadened partnership with Merck Foundation Africa which will cover areas such as Psychological Therapies, Orthopaedic Trauma Science, Paediatric, Emergency Medicine and Advanced Surgical Practice. Additional areas to be covered are Dermatology, Neonatal Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Urology, Rheumatology, Internal Medicine and Pain Management.
In the field of education, Mrs. Akufo-Addo said The Rebecca Foundation last year partnered with the Merck Foundation to produce the TV mentoring programme “Because I want to be” to encourage adolescent girls to stay in school and the ‘Educating Linda’ programme which has so far sponsored twenty high performing girls in their education. She expressed her appreciation to Merck Foundation Africa for accepting to extend their support for the ‘Because I Want to Be’ programme for another year.
The First Lady expressed her gratitude to Merck Foundation for their commitment to supporting healthcare systems, women and girls in Ghana and Africa as well as African governments, healthcare workers, and all who continue to work hard to bring our world to normalcy.
Participating First Ladies were from the Republics of Zambia, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia.