A statement released by the Founation in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday says “We are committed to lead Africa to a better future through shaping the landscape of Cancer care in the continent. Merck Foundation is focusing on improving access to cancer care solutions by developing a Multidisciplinary Oncology Care team in each country (like Medical, Surgery, Pediatric, Gynae, Radiation Oncologists, Radiation Technician, Nursing, Pathologist) as an integrated team approach can lead to better outcomes. I am very proud to say that we have so far trained more than 80 Oncologists from 26 countries. I am particularly very happy to share that Merck Foundation has trained first ever oncologists in countries like Gambia, Central African Republic, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Burundi, Chad and Sierra Leone. We are making history in these countries” emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.
The efforts of Merck Foundation are being appreciated by African presidents and First Ladies. The President of Chad, H.E. IDRISS DÉBY, President of Niger, H. E. MAHAMADOU ISSOUFOU, President of Burundi, H.E. PIERRE NKURUNZIZA, President of Central African Republic, H.E. FAUSTIN-ARCHANGE TOUADÉRA have acknowledged Merck Foundation’s efforts to train their doctors to be the first oncologists in their countries so that people can find the cancer care they deserve in their home countries.
The First Lady of Liberia, H.E CLAR MARIE WEAH shared, “Merck Foundation is training the first ever oncologists from our country. Having our own cancer specialists is something we had never imagined. I deeply appreciate the efforts of Merck Foundation”.
The first Lady of Sierra Leone, H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO expressed her gratitude, “Cancer was a subject that people would only talk about secretly. Only after the death of the person we would know that he or she had cancer. And we have too many people dying of cancer. So, Merck Foundation’s program of training the cancer specialists has been a God sent program for my country. You have empowered us to talk about Cancer. Thank you for training local experts in my country.”
The First Lady of Malawi, H.E PROFESSOR GERTRUDE MUTHARIKAshared during the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative committee meeting,“Malawi opened it’s first cancer center and Merck Foundation is providing training to doctors from our country to become oncologists. I deeply appreciate the efforts of Merck Foundation for giving us our own cancer specialists”.
Merck Foundation through its Merck Cancer Access Program has trainedmore than 80 Oncology Care Specialistsfrom 26 countries which are: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinee, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As per the data, the burden of cancer in Africa is growing with recent estimates reporting 1.06 million new cancer cases per year. This figure is expected to increase by 102% to 2.12 million by 2040.
Moreover, the mortality-incidence ratio in Africa is substantially higher than other countries. This is since at least 80% of patients in Africa are diagnosed with cancer at an advanced stage. One of the key factors that contribute to poor cancer outcomes in Africa includes limited health system infrastructure and a scarcity of oncology specialists.
Therefore, Merck foundation partnership with African First Ladies, local Governments and Academia has been the right strategy to address this pressing issue. The Merck Cancer access Program was launched in 2016 to provide One, two- and three-years fellowship and master degree programs in India, Egypt, Kenya and Malaysia.
It is an on-going initiative as the aim is to build cancer care capacity and will be scaled up to even more African and developing countries this year.