Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA, Germany, continues the second stage of their Africa Oncology Fellowship Program that started in 2016 with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa.
In June 2017, BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), and the African Organization for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC) released a white paper on the African continent’s emerging cancer crisis. Over 20% of African countries have no access to cancer treatments at all, while access is limited and sporadic in other countries. Later-stage diagnosis in African patients contributes to poorer outcomes. For example, 5-year female breast cancer relative survival rates are 46% in Uganda and 12% in The Gambia, compared with around 90% in developed countries, the report cited.
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “One of the main objectives of Merck Foundation is to build a strong platform of qualified medical, paediatric and surgical oncologists across the continent through the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program.”
“Twenty candidates from Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Liberia, Tanzania, and Kenya have enrolled in the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program in partnership with African Ministries of Health, the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Tata Memorial Centre, India, and Cairo University, Egypt. “We are very proud of our contribution, to lead Africa to a better future through changing the landscape of Cancer care in the continent,” Rasha Kelej added.
In partnership with Ministries of Health and Academia across Africa, the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program provides one-year and two-year oncology fellowship programs and a three-year master degree in medical oncology at Tata Memorial Centre, India, University of Nairobi, Kenya, University of Malaya, Malaysia, and Cairo University, Egypt, respectively.
Launched in 2016, with the aim to increase the limited number of qualified oncologists in the continent, three medical doctors from Sub-Saharan African countries, Kenya and South Africa were granted a two-year Africa medical oncology fellowship training at the University of Nairobi. Also, Merck Foundation supported another two African doctors from Ghana and Tanzania for the Paediatric and Adult Medical Oncology Fellowship program that is conducted annually at Tata Memorial Centre, India.
In 2017; Merck Foundation partnered with more African countries such as; Rwanda, Liberia, Zambia, Ethiopia, Botswana and Uganda to provide ten candidates with the one-year oncology fellowship program in India and three candidates from Liberia, Ghana and Namibia to conduct a master degree in clinical oncology at Cairo University, Egypt.
“In 2018, We will continue to enroll more candidates and engage other countries on this program as we firmly believe this is a vital component of improving the quality and accessibility of cancer care in Africa. We have received requests from countries such as; Niger, guinea, Gambia, the Central African Republic to partner with them through their first ladies’ offices and Ministries of Health to provide our fellowship program to their doctors with the aim to improve access to quality cancer care in their countries and across the continent. Merck Foundation will continue their long-term commitment to further partner with more Sub-Saharan African Countries to realize their vision to create a strong platform of future trained oncologists,” Rasha Kelej added.
The partnership between Merck Foundation and the African first ladies’ organization has been established in Jan 2018, to cooperate in building healthcare capacity with the special focus on cancer, diabetes and fertility care in their countries with the support of their Ministries of Health.
Merck Foundation has supported the African governments to define their strategies, to emphasize on building professional capacity and focus on long-term training, with the aim to develop trained oncologists and not only relying on drug or equipment donation, which will help them to be independent and would overcome their major challenge, which is the lack of skilled oncologists and healthcare professionals in general.
Merck Foundation strongly believes that building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to improve access to quality and equitable cancer care in Africa.