The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo–Addo, will host the sixth Merck African Asia Luminary conference in Accra in October, which is aimed at bringing stakeholders together to discuss the management of diseases in Africa.
The annual conference, which is initiated by Merck Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Merck Germany, is expected to be attended by more than 1,000 healthcare providers, policy makers, academia and researchers from over 60 African and Asian countries.
The objective of the conference, scheduled for October 29 to 30, is to improve disease management, early detection and prevention, build healthcare and scientific research capacity as well as improve access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions across Africa and Asia.
Mrs Akufo-Addo will co-chair the event together with Dr Rasha Kelej, the Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation. During the launch of the “Merck More Than a Mother Campaign” in Accra on Monday, Mrs Akufo-Addo expressed the hope that the first ladies, ministers of health, and other participants to attend the conference would make the most out of the event.
She expressed the hope that the participants would share knowledge and experiences that would help improve access to equitable and innovative healthcare solutions. The “Merck More Than a Mother Campaign,” a campaign aimed at increasing advocacy and efforts against infertility in women, was launched in collaboration with the Fertility Society of Ghana.
The campaign would focus mainly on preventive action against infertility thereby empowering couples on the need to seek care on time to prevent infertility. There would also be identification of interventions to help build fertility care capacity in the country so that infertile couples would eventually have access to information, healthcare and change of mindset.
Commenting on the Campaign, Mrs Akufo-Addo, who is the Ambassador of the “Merck More than a Mother campaign,” said she learnt from the fifth edition of the conference in Senegal, last year, that one in every four couples in developing countries suffered infertility.
“What disturbed me most was that majority of infertility cases are due to infectious diseases such as Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Genital Mutilation, unsafe abortion and unsafe delivery. These are mostly preventable” the First Lady said.
She said she was, therefore, happy that the main objective of the campaign was “preventive”. The First Lady expressed a strong belief in the critical role of the media to raise awareness about health and social issues and urged them to help address the sensitive issue of infertility.
She commanded Merck Foundation for partnering Ghana through its Merck Cancer Access Programme and also providing Oncology Fellowship and sponsoring Master’s Degree courses for some Ghanaian doctors and Embryologists.
“But I must state that we are far from the number of oncologists and embryologists required for our population of about 30 million. I intend to work with the Ministry of Health and the Merck Foundation to expand these programmes to increase the number of oncologists and embryologists.”
On her part, Dr Kelej said Merck Foundation would continue its partnership with Ghana to build healthcare capacities and train doctors in the fields of Diabetes, Hypertension, Fertility and Cancer care. “Our aim is to improve the health and well-being of people of the Continent,” she emphasized.
Dr Kelej noted that the Foundation would work with the Ministry of Health to improve access to quality and equitable fertility care in Ghana. Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, the Minister of Health, said infertility was a disease that could be treated through science and urged couples with the condition to seek treatment together and stop blaming women as the cause and the only infertile partner in a relationship.
Present at the launch were Mrs Cynthia Morrison, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and Dr Elikem Hiadzi, the President of Fertility Society of Ghana, as well as the Mr Affail Monney, and Mrs Linda Asante-Adjei, President and Vice-President, respectively, of the Ghana Journalists Association.