Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with Merck Foundation Alumni
Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with Merck Foundation Alumni

Merck Foundation underscores their commitment to increase the limited number of oncologists on World Cancer Day

ANI | Updated: Feb 04, 2020 15:03 IST

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India]/Nairobi [Kenya] Feb 4 (ANI/BusinessWire India): Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks 'World Cancer Day 2020' themed 'I am and I will' by their Cancer Access Program to build cancer care capacity to increase limited number of oncologists across the continent.
"We are committed to lead Africa to a better future by 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 the Gambia, Central African Republic, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Burundi, Chad, and Sierra Leone. We are making history in these countries", emphasized Dr RashaKelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.
The efforts of the Merck Foundation are being appreciated by African presidents and First Ladies. The President of Chad, Idriss Deby, President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, President of Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera 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.
"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", shared Clar Marie Weah, the First Lady of Liberia.
"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 a program for my country. You have empowered us to talk about Cancer. Thank you for training local experts in my country", expressed her gratitude Fatima Maada Bio, the First Lady of Sierra Leone.
"Malawi opened its 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", shared Professor Gertrude Mutharika, the First Lady of Malawi during the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative committee meeting.
Merck Foundation through its Merck Cancer Access Program has trained more than 80 Oncology Care Specialists from 26 countries which are: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, 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 per cent to 2.12 million by 2040.
Moreover, the mortality-incidence ratio in Africa is substantially higher than in other countries. This is since at least 80 per cent 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's 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.
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