Botswana First Lady joins Merck Foundation First Ladies Summit via videoconference to discuss healthcare capacity and COVID -19 response in Africa


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Merck Foundation conducted their first Video Conference Summit of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI). The MFFLI VC Summit was attended by 13 African First Ladies including the First Lady of Botswana, H.E. Mrs. NEO JANE MASISI, who is also the Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother, to discuss their joint efforts to build  healthcare capacity and strengthen the response to COVID-19 in the country and Africa at large.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation; President, Merck More Than a Mother& One of 100 Most Influential Africans (2020, 2019) with H. E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother.

Congratulating Merck Foundation on the success of MFFLI VC Summit and their joint programs, H.E. Mrs. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana expressed, “I am happy to be a part of this prestigious platform as an Ambassador of Merck More than a Mother; which is a valuable partnership which started in 2018. I also take this opportunity to appreciate Merck Foundation’s strategy of building healthcare capacity; it is relevant now more than ever given the challenges posed by the current pandemic. To date, 35 young doctors from Botswana have enrolled in one year diploma programmes across different medical specialities. This program will contribute to the transformation of the healthcare landscape of Botswana”.

Watch Video - Speech of Botswana First Lady, H.E. Neo Masisi during Merck Foundation First Ladies - VC Summit 2020
“Let us focus on our joint efforts to fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV), in order to protect humanity, especially the girls and women. GBV destroys families and also takes us back in the achievement of development goals, both at national and international level. As First Ladies, the vulnerable are naturally looking up to us to make our contribution … to act, to speak louder as we use our advocacy stage”, Mrs. Neo Masisi added.

Watch Video - Dr. Rasha Kelej CEO of Merck Foundation speech at Merck Foundation First Ladies - VC Summit 2020

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation emphasized, “I am proud of our partnership  with The First Lady of Botswana. Together, we successfully implemented the first pilot project of Merck Foundation Diabetes Blue Points Program, with the aim to improve access to equitable and quality diabetes care nationwide  by providing a One-year online Post Graduate Diploma in Diabetes Management from the University of South Wales. I am proud that 7 doctors from different districts, have already graduated from one-year Diabetes Diploma, out of which 2 candidates have been further enrolled in one-year master’s degree course. In addition to this, 9 candidates have been enrolled in the online Diabetes Master course accredited by Diabetes UK. These doctors will be able to establish a diabetes clinic in their Health Centre or Hospital with the aim to help prevent and manage the disease in their respective communities”.

Considering the limited number of Gynecologists across Botswana, together with The First Lady of Botswana, H.E. Neo Masisi and Ministry of Health, Merck Foundation enrolled 7 doctors to One Year Online Post Graduate Diploma and two-year master degree in Sexual and Reproductive Medicine from the University of South Wales, UK. This program will significantly improve women’s health, in particular reproductive health in Botswana.

Moreover, 2 Doctors were enrolled this year to One Year Online Post Graduate Diploma in Endocrinology & Preventive Cardiovascular medicines whereas, 6 Doctors were enrolled to One Year Online Post Graduate Diploma in Respiratory Medicines & One Year Online Post Graduate Diploma in Acute Medicine with the aim  to advance their skills to better manage coronavirus patients and risk groups in the country”.

“Merck Foundation will continue to provide medical training to doctors from Botswana in various medical specialties” Dr. Kelej added.

During the Summit, the First Ladies of Africa underscored the importance of Merck Foundation’s successful strategy of healthcare capacity building through providing training to young African doctors, since 2012, even before the pandemic started.

“Therefore, Merck Foundation has initiated the online medical training and I am delighted to announce that we have so far enrolled over 420 African doctors to these courses with the aim to to build a strong medical army across Africa and global South” concluded Dr. Rasha Kelej, One of 100 Most Influential Africans (2019, 2020).

About Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Summit – MFFLI

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany conducted their first Video Conference Summit of Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) to define and follow up on different joint programs that aims to advance public healthcare sector capacity and strengthen the response to COVID 19 in their countries.

The MFFLI VC Summit 2020 was hosted by Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and the Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother and One of 100 Most Influential African (2019 & 2020) and attended by 13 African First Ladies, who are Ambassadors of Merck More than a Mother; H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe; H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia; H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. AÏSSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU, The First Lady of Niger; H.E. MONICA GEINGOS, The First Lady of Namibia; H.E. ISAURA FERRÃO NYUSI, The First Lady of Mozambique; H.E. MONICA CHAKWERA, The First Lady of Malawi; H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; H. E. FATOUMATTA BAHBARROW, The First Lady of The Gambia; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic; H.E. ANGELINE NDAYISHIMIYE, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E. ANA DIAS LOURENÇO, The First Lady of Angola.

The MFFLI VC Summit, special edition aims to share experiences, discuss challenges, and define solutions to further strengthen healthcare capacity to better respond to this global pandemic in Africa.

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The Merck Foundation, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation Website.  Please visit to read more. To know more, reach out to our social media: Merck Foundation; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Flicker.