Merck Foundation meets the Head of State and the First Lady of Zambia to launch their programs in the country


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Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother with The First Lady of Zambia, H.E. ESTHER LUNGU during their visit to a village in Central Province, Zambia to meet and empower infertile women

Merck Foundation Launch in Zambia by Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation
  • Merck Foundation launched their programs in partnership with Zambia’s First Lady and Ministry of Health 
  • Merck Foundation awarded the First Lady of Zambia to acknowledge her efforts as “Merck More Than a Mother” Ambassador 
  • Merck Foundation launched the Merck More than a Mother Media Recognition Awards and the first Health Media training in Zambia
  • Merck More Than a Mother Fashion award was launched in partnership with Zambia First Lady and Zambia Fashion Week.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation during her meeting with the President of Zambia, H.E. EDGAR LUNGU at the State House of Zambia.  

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany underscored their commitment to build healthcare capacity in Zambia during their high level meeting with The Head of State of Zambia, H.E. EDGAR LUNGU and The First Lady of Zambia, H.E. ESTHER LUNGU at the State House of Zambia.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother presenting the award to The First Lady of Zambia, H.E. ESTHER LUNGU for acknowledge her efforts as 'Merck More than a Mother' Ambassador.

The Head of State of Zambia, H.E. EDGAR LUNGU emphasized, “The government will support initiatives that are aimed at addressing infertility in the country. I am happy that Merck Foundation and the First Lady of Zambia have come on board to deal with infertility. Some women have been abused and divorced because in the African context, it is believed that only females are infertile and though infertility affects men and women both. I am also happy that the Merck Foundation has trained journalists to understand infertility as the media is a front line in communication and that training them is the key to address challenges surrounding infertility”.


Merck Foundation launched their programs in Zambia in partnership with The First Lady of Zambia, H.E. ESTHER LUNGU together with Ministry of Health.

Merck Foundation CEO, Dr. Rasha Kelej Meeting Infertile Women of Zambia

During the launch event, Merck Foundation CEO and President of Merck More Than a Mother, Dr. Rasha Kelej awarded Her Excellency to acknowledge her efforts as “Merck More Than a Mother” Ambassador in the country.

H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia emphasized “We are excited to partner with Merck Foundation and are happy to launch their programs in our country. These programs will continue to make a very significant impact on our people’s advancement, as health is very critical to our social and economic development.”

The First Lady of Zambia H.E. ESTHER LUNGU speech during Merck Foundation Launch in Zambia.

“We are very happy to award Her Excellency First Lady of Zambia, ESTHER LUNGU for her great efforts to empower infertile women as the ambassador of Merck More than a Mother. We have also underscored our long-term partnership with the Ministry of Health of Zambia to continue building healthcare capacity and train doctors in the fields of Cancer Care, Fertility, Diabetes and Hypertension. We are proud to make history by providing the first Fertility Specialist, Surgical Oncologist, Pediatric Oncologist and Gynecology Oncologist in the country. Our aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Zambia and the rest of Africa”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President, Merck More Than a Mother.

Dr. Rasha Kelej,CEO Merck Foundation speech in Zambia during Merck More than a Mother launch

Minister of Health of Zambia, Hon. Chitalu Chilufya thanked Merck Foundation for offering scholarships to Zambian medical personnel.

Dr. Rasha Kelej visited one of the villages in the Central Province to meet a group of Zambian infertile women to identify their needs and challenges and work on a concrete strategy to support and empower them and make their life happier. Also, to break the stigma of infertility through access to information, education and change of mindset using people’s natural settings such as art, fashion, films and social media to raise awareness.

Merck Foundation also introduced new and unique initiatives in the country to get the desired culture shift.

“We have introduced few innovative initiatives such as the ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Fashion Award in partnership with First Lady of Zambia and Zambia Fashion Week. We have introduced this award to encourage to create a meaningful fashion trend aiming to break the stigma around infertility and educate our communities that ‘Fertility is a Shared Responsibility’, and not only women are responsible for it.

Also, we have called for application for ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Media Recognition Award to recognize and appreciate professional journalists who have produced accurate, informative and compelling stories about infertility, infertile women or couples” emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.
Merck Foundation has also worked closely with local singers to create songs that address the sane issue to sensitize the community with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empower infertile women.
Merck Foundation also conducted the first Media Health Training in the country in partnership with The First Lady of ZambiaMinistry of Health together with Zambia Union of Journalists. It was attended by over 50 Zambian journalists and was organized to train journalists on the international standards and media ethics for reporting sensitive issues like infertility in Africa. It benefitted the journalists in understanding the infertility issues in African communities and to learn the best media practices to cover it with the aim to break its stigma and sensitize our communities through all media outlets.

Merck Foundation has started the partnership with Zambia Ministry of Health since 2016, through providing training for the first Fertility specialists in Zambia by providing clinical training on fertility specialty. Merck Foundation will continue to train more candidates to help infertile couples across the country.

Watch Video - Merck Foundation Alumni, Dr Moses Cirwa trained IVF Specialist from Zambia

Merck Foundation has provided training for the first Surgical, Pediatric and Gynecology, radiology and adult Oncologists in Zambia through one-year Merck Oncology Fellowship Program in India. Furthermore, Merck Foundation, in partnership with the First Lady of Zambia, will continue enrolling doctors from Zambia nationwide in the one year and two-year oncology fellowship program and master’s degree program in Tata Memorial Centre, University of Malaya and Cairo University respectively as a contribution to improve cancer care in the country. 

Watch Video - Merck Oncology Fellowship Program for Doctors from Zambia

Moreover, Merck Foundation will start their Merck Foundation Blue Points project to help improve access to equitable and quality diabetes care across Zambia through providing one-year on-line diabetes diploma to 10 doctors, one from each province in Zambia. Every diploma graduate will be able to establish a diabetes clinic in his center or hospital with the aim to help their respective communities to better prevent and manage diabetes.
Meet the candidates selected by Merck Foundation:
Merck Fertility/ Embryology Training

  1. Dr. Moses Chirwa, IIRRH, India
  2. Dr. Njekwa Samutumwa, Indira IVF, India
  3. Dr. Mubambe Mulaya, Indira IVF, India
  4. Dr. Mukaka Sampa, IIRRH, India
  5. Dr. Isiah Hansingo, IIRRH, India

Merck Oncology Training

  1. Dr. Kabisa Mwala, Surgical Oncology Fellow
  2. Dr. Mulindwa Makasa Justin, Paediatric Medical Oncology Fellow
  3. Dr. Paul Kamfwa, Gynaecologic Oncology Fellow
  4. Dr. Grace Mizinga Chingo, Pediatric Medical Oncology
  5. Dr. Swali Vusa Fundafunda, Gynaec Oncology
  6. Dr. Charles Kapela Mwandama, Haemato Oncology

About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign;
“Merck More Than a Mother” initiative aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and health and by changing mind-sets. This powerful initiative supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe and effective fertility care. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention and management. In partnership with academia, ministries of health and international fertility societies, the initiative also provides medical education and training for healthcare providers and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.
With “Merck More than a mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility on all levels: By improving awareness, training the skills of local experts, building advocacy in cooperation with decision makers and by supporting childless women in starting their own small business. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child. 
The Ambassadors of “Merck More Than a Mother” are: H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia; H.E. NEO JANE MASISI, The First Lady of Botswana; H.E. DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of the Republic of Burundi; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central Africa Republic; H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of Chad; First Lady of Ghana, H.E. REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO; H.E. DJÈNÈ CONDÈ, The First Lady of Guinea-Conakry; H.E. FATOUMATTA BAH BARROW, The First Lady of Gambia; H.E. AISSATA ISSOUFOU MAHAMADOU, The First Lady of Niger; H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone.
Also, part of the campaign is our Merck Embryology & Fertility Training Program, a three-month hands-on practical course in partnership with IRSI, Indonesia, IIRRH, India and Manipal Academy of Higher Education (Manipal University), India to establish the platform of fertility specialists across Africa and developing countries. Merck Foundation provided for more than 84 candidates, in clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 29 countries across Africa and Asia such as: Chad, Niger, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire , Ghana, Ethiopia , Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania , Zambia , Nigeria, Benin, Mali, Burkina Fuso, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameron, Rwanda, Botswana,  DR Congo , Congo Brazzaville, Gambia , Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Cambodia.
Merck Foundation is making history in many African countries where they never had fertility specialists or specialized fertility clinics before ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ intervention, to train the first fertility specialists such as; in Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Niger, Chad, Guinea, Ethiopia and Uganda. 
Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck more than a Mother such as;

  • Merck More than a Mother media recognition award and health media training
  • Merck More than a Mother fashion award
  • Merck More than a Mother film award
  • Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it

About Merck Oncology Fellowship Program
The Merck Oncology Fellowship Program, a key initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program, focuses on building additional capacity through medical education and training. The lack of financial means is not the only challenge in Africa and developing countries, but a scarcity of trained health care personnel capable to tackle the prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer at all levels of the health care systems is even a bigger challenge.

Merck Oncology Fellowship Program focuses on building professional cancer care capacity with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists in Africa and Developing countries. The program provides One-year fellowship program at Tata Memorial Centre - India, One and half-years Oncology Fellowship programs at University of Malaya - Malaysia, Two years Oncology Fellowship Program at University of Nairobi - Kenya and Two years Master degree in Medical, Surgical, Pediatric and Radiation Oncology at Cairo University - Egypt, in partnership with African Ministries of Health, Local Governments and Academia.
Launched in 2016, over 43 candidates from more than 21 African countries have rolled in the Merck Oncology Fellowship Program. The program will continue to build cancer care capability in African countries such as Botswana, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

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About Merck Foundation

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.

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