Merck Foundation Commemorates World Cancer Day with 140 Oncology Scholarship Awards

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By Nelson Manneh

Merck Foundation commemorated World Cancer Day with African First Ladies by providing one hundred and forty scholarships of Oncology Training for African doctors from twenty-eight countries.

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 more than one hundred and forty scholarships of one-, two- and three-year fellowship, diploma and Master Degree of oncology to African doctors from twenty-eight 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 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, with the aim to increase the limited number of Oncologists and develop the first multidisciplinary cancer care teams across the continent.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, the CEO of Merck Foundation, 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 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 doctor 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.”

He said Merck Foundation in total 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 Programme provides one, two- and three-year fellowship, Post Graduate Diploma and Master Degree of oncology for doctors from Africa.

The clinical training has been conducted in India, Egypt and Kenya. Additionally, Merck Foundation also provides 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 like University of South Wales, 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 of clinical training in Medical Oncology, Surgical Oncology, Paediatrics Oncology, Gynaecology Oncology, Breast Oncology, Haematoid-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.

Merck Foundation through its Merck Foundation Cancer Access Programme has provided 141 scholarships of Oncology to doctors from 28 countries which include Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“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; 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 Dr. Rasha Kelej.

As per WHO data, every year, Africa records around 1.1 million new cases of cancer, resulting in up to 700,000 deaths.

The mortality rate cancer patients are very high in Africa, as compared to the rest of the world. One of the key reasons is also the late diagnosis of the disease. Moreover, Africa has only 3% of the world’s cancer treatment facilities.

Therefore, through their Cancer Access and Oncology Fellowship Program, 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.

Dr. Mahamat Saleh Mahamat Baldass, Merck Foundation Oncology Alumni from Chad, says: “I am the first Chadian Medical Oncologist of the country. I have benefitted from the One-year Oncology Fellowship training conducted at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India, offered to me by 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 to live. I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to Merck Foundation for giving me this opportunity.”

Dr. Sylvestre Bazikamwe, Merck Foundation Alumni from Burundi, said: “I have completed 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 gynaecological cancers. I am spreading awareness about gynaecological cancers and their possible therapies amongst all my colleagues at the University of Burundi. I am very grateful to Merck Foundation for their priceless contribution towards cancer care.”