Merck Foundation trains more oncologists as cancer cases rise in Africa


Cancer undoubtedly is the second leading cause of death globally and was responsible for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Unfortunately for low and middle income countries, especially in Africa, approximately 70 per cent of the total number is from these countries.

The striking mortality rate in Africa continues to be a source of worry as it is estimated to be the second cause of death in women on the continent. For this reason, there is the urgent need to employ every means necessary to combat this canker that has bedevilled the continent and the globe at large. 

To assist with the fight of cancer, the Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health, is providing one, two- and three-year Oncology Fellowship and Master Degree for African doctors through their Cancer Access Program with the aim to increase the limited number of Oncologists across Africa.

Merck Foundation is set to make history in Africa as it trains the first African oncologists and cancer care teams in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger.

CEO of Merck Foundation, Dr. Rasha Kelej indicated that the main objective of the initiative is to provide quality and affordable care to patients.

She emphasised that the strategy is to develop Multidisciplinary Oncology Care team in each country such as Medical, Surgery, Pediatric, Gynecology, Radiation Oncologists, Nursing, Pathologist and Radiology Technician.

“As an African woman, I am proud that we are making history in Africa through training the first oncologists and first cancer care teams in many countries such as; The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger”, she said.

The project is timely to supplement the limited number of oncologists the continent is suffering.

The First Lady of Liberia, Clar Marie Weah who revealed that Merck Foundation is the first Foundation that has provided this valuable specialty training to first oncologists in Liberia, she added that, “As per the data, the burden of cancer in Africa is growing with recent estimates reporting 1.06 million new diagnosed cancer cases per year. This figure is expected to increase by 102% to 2.12 million by 2040”.

As other First Ladies also lauded Dr Rasha Kelej and the Merck Foundation for its contributions in the fight to eliminate cancer, Dr Rasha added that, “Therefore, we strongly believe that building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to address this pressing challenge. It is an on-going initiative as the aim is to build cancer care capacity and we plan to scale it up to train more doctors in more African countries”.

Launched in 2016, the Merck Cancer Access Program provides One-, two- and three-years fellowship and master degree programs for African doctors in India, Egypt, Kenya and Malaysia.

Merck Foundation through its Merck Cancer Access Program has till date trained more than 80 Oncology Care Specialists from 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.

By Asabea Akonor, Daily Mail GH

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