The Merck Foundation, in partnership with the Chairperson of National Council of Namibia and the Namibian Ministry of Health, has launched the ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ programme in Namibia.

The programme aims to empower infertile women in Africa by de-stigmatising infertility. This is achieved by creating awareness about infertility prevention management and improving access to information, health and economic empowerment.

The Foundation has appointed Chairperson of National Council of Namibia, Hon. Margaret Mensah-Williams, as the ambassador of the ‘Merck More than a Mother’ initiative. She will work with the Merck Foundation in defining interventions and to break the stigma around childless women across the country.

According to Hon. Mensah-Williams, infertility is profoundly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Namibia where infertility prevalence rates for some ethnic groups is as high as 32%.

“The time is ripe for a shift in mind-set around the issue,” said CEO of the Merck Foundation, Dr Rasha Kelej.

“We are also calling on Members of Parliament to advocate for this in their communities. A little bit of information which takes one minute can save lives, happiness, and can change culture and beliefs around you,” continued Dr Kelej.

Dr Kelej says the media could also play a crucial role in sensitising citizens on infertility and its prevention.

“Therefore, we are going to launch media recognition awards and a media training programme to prepare the media to advocate and raise awareness with the aim to break the stigma around infertility in Namibia,” said Dr Kelej.

Furthermore, the Foundation will provide three to six months clinical and practical training to healthcare providers to create fertility specialists and will also provide training for nurses to become fertility counsellors.

To date more than 50 candidates have received three to six months clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 17 countries across Africa and Asia.

The Merck Foundation has also supported the establishment of the first public IVF centres in Ethiopia and Uganda and plans to support the establishment of the first public IVF in Tanzania in the near future.

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