Merck marks World Embryologists Day and 40 years of IVF
Merck Foundation (Merck-Foundation.com), the philanthropic arm of its KGaA Germany marks ‘World Embryologists Day 2018’ through their its more than a Mother campaign with the aim to break the infertility stigma and to create awareness around infertility prevention and male infertility.
“Merck More than a Mother campaign has been launched in 2015 to empower infertile women through access to information, health and change of mind-set. Through the campaign, Merck foundation in partnership with ministries of health and African First Ladies offices, builds fertility care capacity by providing clinical training for fertility specialists and Embryologists across Africa and Asia” emphasizes Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck More Than a Mother.
Merck Foundation has provided training to over 50 fertility specialists and embryologists from Africa and Asia. It is an on-going initiative as the aim is to build fertility care capacity.
“Our goal is to raise awareness about infertility and to break the stigma attached to it as well as to support healthcare systems with the measures to prevent, diagnose and manage it effectively through our capacity building programs. We are working at all levels to achieve this goal; all our programs are a step in the same direction” added Dr. Rasha Kelej.
Merck Foundation recently conducted “Merck More Than a Mother” Media Recognition Awards 2017 and called for entries for 2018. The awards were organized to emphasize the role of media in enhancing the public engagement and understanding of infertility stigma and the need to change its social perception in African communities. It was also a gesture to encourage and thank the media personals writing for this cause.
Merck Foundation also concluded its first Merck Health Media Training in Nairobi, Kenya, which was organized to highlight the important role that media plays to influence our society to create a cultural shift with the aim to break the stigma around infertility in general and infertile women in particular. The training program, which was a part of ‘Merck more than a Mother’ community awareness program, saw attendance from over 200 journalists from about 17 African countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Gambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia, Botswana, Liberia, Cameroon, Burundi, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia and Sierra Leona.
“I am overwhelmed with the feedback from the media community about the training program. They have immensely benefitted from it. We focused on the international standards and media ethics for reporting sensitive issues like infertility in Africa and we also provided them with all scientific information and data needed to raise awareness about infertility prevention and male infertility. With the success of this program, we look forward to scale it up to Francophone African countries and Asian countries in 2018” added Dr. Rasha Kelej.
During the training program, Merck Foundation announced the start of new hashtags #MenToo and #NoForInfertilityStigma to invite media from all over Africa to share its opinions and stories on social media about the topic.
“Not only Media but Art also has the capacity and influence to make the problem felt, which further stimulates emotions and leads to engagement then action. So, we have collaborated with famous singers; Suzanna Owíyo and Octopizzo from Kenya, Tom Close from Rwanda and Rozzy from Sierra Leone to launch three theme songs: “Warriors”, “Life is Bigger”, “More than a Mother” addressing the issue with specific focus on Male infertility to encourage men to speak up about their infertility and join the treatment journey with their wives” concluded Dr. Rasha Kelej.
About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign;
In many cultures, childless women suffer discrimination, stigma, and ostracism. Their inability to have children results in great isolation, disinheritance, and assaults. “Merck More Than a Mother” empowers such women through the access to information, health, change of mindsets and economic empowerment.
As part of this Campaign, we started “Empowering Berna” project in Africa to help childless and infertile women starting their own business and thus achieve financial independence and become stronger and happier. The project has benefited more than 1,000 women across the continent.
Also, part of the campaign is our Merck Embryology & Fertility Training Program, a three-month hands-on practical course to establish the platform of fertility specialists across Africa and Asia.
Merck Foundation provided for more than 50 candidates, three months to six months clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 29 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.
The 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, and Guinea.
The Foundation plan supported the establishment of the first public IVF centers in Ethiopia and Uganda through providing the clinical and practical training necessary for their staff. Merck Foundation also plans to support the establishment of the first public IVF in Tanzania soon.
“Merck more than a Mother” launched in 2015, is a program of the Merck Foundation, the foundation drives many of our initiatives and programs in the area of build health care and research capacity and improves access to equitable healthcare solutions.