Posted on: Fri 09-02-2024

To mark this year’s World Cancer Day, Merck Foundation in partnership with Africa First Ladies and Ministries of Health is building the cancer care capacity of health professionals from 28 African countries.

The 140 scholarships which span from one to three years of Fellowship, Diploma, and Master Degrees in oncology are designed to increase the limited number of oncologists in various countries.

Merck Foundation is making history in Africa by training the first African Oncologists and first cancer care teams in countries such as Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad, Burundi, Malawi, Niger, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe among others.

Like every year, Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, marks ‘World Cancer Day 2024’ themed ‘Close the care gap’ together with Africa’s First Ladies and Ministries of Health through their Cancer Access Programme to build quality and equitable cancer care capacity in Africa to increase the limited number of Oncologists and develop the first multidisciplinary cancer care teams across the continent.

Speaking, the CEO of Merck Foundation, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej said: “We mark World Cancer Day together with Africa’s First Ladies, not just on a specific day, but every day and every year through transforming and advancing cancer care in Africa and also by enhancing professional capacity and improving access to high-quality and equitable cancer care throughout the continent.

“I am proud to share that Merck Foundation together with African First Ladies is successfully increasing the limited number of Oncologists in Africa by providing 140 scholarships to young African doctors from 28 countries.  We are making history together by providing these important scholarships for the first oncologists and /or the first cancer care teams in many countries across Africa”.

She explained that Merck Foundation in total had provided more than 1700 scholarships to doctors from over 50 countries in 42 critical and underserved medical specialties.

Launched in 2016, the Merck Foundation Cancer Access Program provides one-, two- and three-year fellowships, a graduate Diploma, and a Master's Degree in oncology for doctors from Africa. The clinical training has been conducted in India, Egypt, and Kenya. Additionally, Merck Foundation also provides scholarships for a year online PG Diploma in Cancer and Clinical Oncology, 01 one-year online PG Diploma in Medical Oncology, and 1 one-year online PG Diploma in Pain Management from a reputed Universities in the UK like the University of South Wales, and University of Buckingham, Queen

Mary University of London, Cardiff University, and The University of Edinburgh. Merck Foundation is establishing Multidisciplinary Oncology Care teams in many African countries by providing scholarships for clinical training in Medical Oncology,

Surgical Oncology, Pediatrics Oncology, Gynecology Oncology, Breast Oncology, Haemato-Oncology, Orthopaedic Oncology, Palliative Care, Pathology Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Research in Oncology, Surgical Oncology – Genital Urinary System, Advanced Cytopathology Training, Interventional Radiology, Radiation, Technician, Laboratory Technician, Oncology Nursing.

“In some of these countries, there was not even a single Oncologist, therefore, we are proud that we are making history in Africa through training the first Oncologists and First Cancer Care teams in many countries such as; Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad, and Niger.

“Merck Foundation is committed to leading Africa to a better future through transforming the landscape of Cancer care in the continent”, explained Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Noting that WHO data showed that every year, Africa records around 1.1 million new cases of cancer, resulting in up to 700,000 deaths, she said through their Cancer Access and Oncology Fellowship Programme, Merck Foundation is committed to improving the lives of people and has been transforming the cancer care landscape and making history together with its partners in Africa, Asia, and beyond.

Merck Foundation has also created awareness materials including awareness leaflets and videos on Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

Speaking, Merck Foundation Oncology Alumni from Chad, Dr Mahamat Saleh Mahamat Baldass,  said: “I am the first Chadian Medical Oncologist of the country. I have benefitted from the One-year Oncology Fellowship training conducted at Tata Memorial

A hospital in Mumbai, India, was offered to me by the Merck Foundation. Two of my colleagues have benefitted from the three-month hands-on training in Oncology Nursing and Onco-pathology. The training I received has helped me in treating cancer patients in my country who either had to travel abroad for treatment (often very expensive) or simply gave up the hope of living. I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to Merck Foundation for giving me this opportunity.”

Merck Foundation Alumni from Burundi, Dr. Sylvestre Bazikamwe added: “I have completed a One-year Fellowship in Gynae-Oncology from the prestigious Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai, offered to me by Merck Foundation. I am now working towards a new Gynae-Oncology operating room and am also training my entire team

so that we can offer various surgical treatments at the earliest possible. We intend to focus on early detection and optimum management of gynecological cancers. I am spreading awareness about gynecological cancers and their possible therapies among all my colleagues at the University of Burundi. I am very grateful to Merck Foundation for their priceless contribution towards cancer care.”