BY OJO SAMSON AYOMIDE
Like every year, Merck Foundation marks World Cancer Day together with Africa First Ladies and Ministries of Health through building cancer care capacity and increasing the limited number of oncologists in their countries by providing 110 Scholarships of One-, two- and three-years fellowship, diploma and Master degree of oncology to African doctors from 25 Countries; Merck Foundation is making history in Africa by training the first African oncologists and first cancer care teams in countries such as The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad, Burundi, Malawi, Niger, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and more.
Like every year, Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, marks ‘World Cancer Day 2023’ themed ‘Close the care gap’ together with African First Ladies through their Cancer Access Program to build professional cancer care capacity in Africa with the aim to increase the limited number of Oncologists and develop the first multidisciplinary cancer care teams across the continent.
Senator, Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “We mark World Cancer Day together with African First Ladies, every day and every year in a very special and unique way, that is by transforming and advancing cancer care in Africa by building professional capacity and improving access to quality and equitable cancer care in 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 110 scholarships to young doctor from 25 countries.
We are making history together by providing this important scholarships for the first oncologists and /or the first cancer care teams in many countries across Africa”.
Launched in 2016, the Merck Foundation Cancer Access Program provides One, two- and three-years fellowship, Post Graduate Diploma and Master Degree of oncology for doctors from Africa. The clinical training has been conducted in India, Egypt and Kenya. Moreover, Merck Foundation also started to provide scholarships for 2 years online PG Diploma in Cancer and Clinical Oncology, 1 year online PG Diploma in Medical Oncology and 1 year online PG Diploma in Pain Management from reputed Universities in UK.
As per recent WHO data, every year, Africa records around 1.1 million new cases of cancer, resulting in up to 700,000 deaths. Africa has only 3% of the world’s cancer treatment facilities, with radiotherapy available in just 22 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which contributes to poor survival rates.
“We are aiming to form Multidisciplinary Oncology Care teams in many countries by providing scholarships of 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. 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; The 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.
Merck Foundation through its Merck Foundation Cancer Access Program has provided 110 scholarships of Oncology to doctors from 25 countries which are: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central Africa, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Dr. Iddrisu A. Rashid Timtoni who completed his Master Degree In Medical Oncology at NCI, Cairo University, Merck Foundation Oncology Alumni from Ghana says, “Unfortunately, medical oncologists who play a central role and coordinating patient care are very few in Ghana with none in the northern part of the country, and therefore an urgent need to train doctors to fill this gap. Therefore, Merck Foundation program to provide scholarship for master degree in Medical Oncology in Egypt was a successful strategy to address this huge challenge not only in Ghana but in the rest of Africa. Thank you very much Merck Foundation.”
Dr. Paul Kamfwa, Gynecologic Oncology Fellow, Merck Foundation Alumni from Zambia adds, “I am the first Gynecologic Oncologist in Zambia, thanks to Merck Oncology Fellowship Program. The Fellowship has helped me to receive extensive surgical exposure to gynecological procedures, chemotherapy and learn the new and advanced techniques of radiotherapy. Zambian women will now have a quality and continuity of care since surgery and administering of chemoradiotherapy can be facilitated by the same person in their home country.”