The Merck Foundation, in partnership with the University of Malaya has signed a memorandum of understanding with the aim to build healthcare capacity in Africa and Asia with a special focus on diabetes, oncology and infertility.

The partnership will facilitate academic support to post-graduate medical trainees from Africa and other developing countries.

“We are delighted to partner with the University of Malaya, to provide clinical training and fellowship programmes to young healthcare practitioners from Africa and other developing countries,” said Chairman of Board of Trustees of Merck Foundation, Professor Dr Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp.

“I strongly believe that building capacity is the right strategy to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare since the lack of professional skills is a key challenge in these nations. We have successfully conducted many educational and fellowship programmes in both Africa and Asia since 2012 and we will continue our long-term commitment through our Merck Foundation,” continued Prof Stangenberg-Haverkamp.

The Merck Foundation has supported several initiatives aimed at up-skilling healthcare workers and improving access to quality healthcare services in developing countries. According to the Foundation, its Capacity Advancement Programme has benefitted 30,000 medical graduates across Africa and Asia.

In 2017 the Foundation initiated the several activities in partnership with academia, ministries of health and the offices of First Ladies in more than 35 countries, including the More Than A Mother initiative. The initiative aims to de-stigmatise infertility by creating awareness about infertility prevention management.

Through the campaign, more than 30 candidates received three-month hands-on training to be embryologists and fertility specialists in Africa and Asia to improve quality, regulated and safe fertility care in developing countries.

As part of the Merck Cancer Access Programme, over 30 African physicians received oncology fellowship programmes spanning one to two years, in a bid to help increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa.

Merck also launched the Merck Diabetes and Hypertension Awards where over 50 medical postgraduates would receive a one-year online diploma in diabetes or preventive cardiovascular medicines, as part of the effort to establish a platform of diabetes and hypertension experts in Africa and Asia.

The awards encouraged participants from African and Asian medical universities to propose innovative concepts for improving early detection and prevention of diabetes and hypertension in their countries. The awards featured their own themes, namely, “Every Day is a Diabetes Day” and “What the Healthy Heart Needs”.

“This partnership is essential for the sustainability of Merck Foundation programmes – especially ‘Merck Cancer Access Programme’ and ‘Merck More Than A Mother’ – that serve as platforms to train oncologists and embryologists to improve access to fertility and cancer care in Africa and Asia,” said CEO of Merck Foundation, Dr Rasha Kelej.

“I personally believe through this partnership we will be able to make a significant impact on societies and scientific communities in both continents,” concluded Dr Kelej.

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