The Merck Foundation has evaluated the social and economic impact of its ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ programme, an initiative that aims to de-stigmatise infertility by creating awareness about infertility prevention management.

In 2016, the Merck Foundation in partnership with the Uganda Ministry of Health started ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Campaign in the country with the aim to raise awareness about infertility prevention and management, build fertility care capacity and break the stigma around infertile women.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) data, more than 180 million couples in developing countries suffer from primary or secondary infertility. The social stigma of childlessness still leads to isolation and abandonment in many developing countries.

The data also shows that in sub-Saharan Africa, infertility is caused by infections in more than 85% of women compared with 33% worldwide.

The initiative established various income generating projects to support infertile women across the country with the aim of empowering them socially and economically. To date, the Merck Foundation has benefitted over 800 women across Uganda.

“The childless women groups we created in each village are doing a great job. I remember last year they had no purpose in life, no respect from their community and no source of income. Today they have a bank account and a steady monthly income; now they are much happier and stronger,” said CEO of the Merck Foundation, Dr Rasha Kelej.

“For me, it’s essential to frequently visit ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ heroines across Africa to influence their transformation. The base of change in these villages is remarkable, and with our efforts and passion this change will be sustainable,” continued Dr Kelej.

“The journey that the Merck Foundation has started is a very special journey that has touched the lives of women who have been forgotten in the communities. It has touched not only women but also the lives of men who have been mistreating their women thinking that infertility is an issue of women,” said Minister of State of Health Uganda, Sarah Opendi.

The foundation has also provided for more than 40 candidates, three months to six months clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 15 countries across Africa and Asia. In addition, the foundation plans to support the establishment of the first public IVF clinic in Tanzania.

“I am glad that the efforts of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ paid off. Now, these women are independent and getting the respect and support they deserved from the community,” concluded Dr Kelej.

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