Infectious diseases, women’s health and empowering women in research will be the focus of the 2nd UNESCO-Merck Africa Research Summit (UNESCO-MARS), which is taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 28-29 November 2016.

UNESCO-MARS 2016 is being organised by science and technology company, Merck, UNESCO, African Union, Ethiopia Ministry of Health, University of Cambridge and Institute Pasteur International.

According to the event organisers, UNESCO-MARS 2016 is expected to bring together more than 200 researchers – 60% of which are women – from more than 35 African countries to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to prepare for the road ahead in developing Africa as an international hub for research excellence and scientific innovation.

“The theme of the summit, infectious diseases and women’s health, is informed by the fact that for many infectious diseases, women are at higher risk and have a more severe course of illness than men for many reasons including biological differences, social inequities and restrictive cultural norms. Therefore, efforts to recognise and reduce health disparities among women have particular relevance for global health,” said Chief Social Officer at Merck Healthcare, Rasha Kelej.

“The summit will focus on the relation between infectious diseases and cancer in women, untreated infectious diseases and the high prevalence of infertility in Africa,” continued Kelej.

UNESCO-MARS 2016 will also aim to identify the scientific research priorities for evolving health needs to address infectious diseases such as malaria, schistosomiasis and Zika in relation to women’s heath.

On the second day of UNESCO-MARS 2016, the Merck on-line research community blog will be launched to enable young researchers to exchange experience and knowledge with their peers and with established researchers in Africa and beyond.

“In addition, the UNESCO-MARS 2016 will launch for the first time the ‘Best African Woman Research Awards’ to recognise the outstanding contribution of African women researchers and scientists with the aim of promoting women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM ),” said Kelej.

During last year’s event in Geneva, Switzerland, several participants were recognised and awarded for excellence in research, in which two scientists were awarded six-month fellowships in Merck’s Biotechnology R&D hub in Germany.

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