President of Ghana, H.E. NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO inaugurates Merck Foundation 6th Edition of “Merck Africa Asia Luminary” to build Healthcare capacity in Africa and Asia

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Dr Rasha Kelej, along with the Africa First Ladies and Ministers. 

#MerckAfricaAsiaLuminary #MerckMoreThanAMothet #NoToInfertilityStigma 

  • Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E-Merck KG inaugurated the Luminary in Ghana. 
  • The 6th Edition of “Merck Africa Asia Luminary” co-chaired by H.E. MADAM REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.
  • African First Ladies of Burundi, CAR, Chad, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe were the Guest of Honor for the Luminary.
  • More than 1000 healthcare providers, policy makers and academia from 60 countries benefitted from the Luminary.
  • 2nd anniversary of Merck Foundation was also marked during the Luminary.

(L-R) H.E. DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi; H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central Africa Republic; H.E. HINDA DEBY ITNO, The First Lady of Chad; H.E. CLAR WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia; H.E. GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi; Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E-Merck KG; H.E. MADAM REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana; DR. RASHA KELEJ, CEO, Merck Foundation; H.E.  AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria; H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO, The First Lady of Sierra Leone; H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia; H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, The First Lady of Zimbabwe during the 6th Edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary.

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck Germany conducted the 6th Edition of “Merck Africa Asia Luminary” in ACCRA, GHANA on 29th & 30th of October 2019. It was co-chaired by H.E. MADAM REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana and Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation.

Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative (MFFLI) Committee meeting - with Merck More Than a Mother Ambassadors and First Ladies of Burundi, Central Africa, Chad, Liberia, Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe along with Dr.  Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Board of Trustees of Merck Foundation.

During his keynote speech while inaugurating the conference, The President of Ghana, H.E. NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO emphasized, “I am delighted to host this prestigious conference in Ghana. This conference will help find solutions to address the problem of lack of healthcare capacity in African countries and ending stigma attached to infertility.”

H.E. MR. NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, President of Ghana


H.E. MR. NANA ADDO DANKWA AKUFO-ADDO, President of Ghana welcomed by Dr. Rasha Kelej and Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp

Prof. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of the Executive Board and Family Board of E-Merck KG emphasized“Merck Foundation is committed to support the social and economic development of Africa, Asia and developing countries by building healthcare capacity and improving access to innovative and equitable healthcare in the continent.”

Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp Chairman of Executive Board and Family Board of E.Merck KG and Member of the Merck Family, Chairman of Board of Trustees of Merck Foundation.

During her welcome speech, H.E. MADAM REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana and Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother said, “I am delighted to host this prestigious conference in Ghana. I am very proud of our partnership with Merck Foundation through which we have been able to achieve many outcomes in the country for the social and economic welfare of our people through my Ambassadorship of Merck More Than a Mother, we have been able to launch many initiatives to sensitize our communities about the sensitive issue of infertility and the stigma attached to it”.


H.E. MADAM REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of the Republic of Ghana and the Co-Chairperson of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019 delivers the Key note speech at the High Level First Ladies Panel during the Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019


H.E REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, the First Lady of Ghana has been awarded  to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Ghana and the rest of Africa as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother.

Merck Foundation CEO, Dr. Rasha Kelej welcomed the First Ladies and Ministers of Health, Gender, Information, Education and Science from more than 20 African Countries.

“Together with First Ladies of Africa and Ministers of different sectors, we worked on a strong strategy to build healthcare capacity and provide the necessary training to establish a strong platform of experts in Diabetes, Hypertension, Cancer and Fertility care in their countries and define interventions to break infertility stigma. During the Luminary, the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Committee (MFFLI) was also conducted to discuss different topics of discussion, follow up, monitoring and decisions.” Dr. Rasha Kelej emphasized.


Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and the Co-Chairperson of the Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019 delivers her final intervention at the High Level First Ladies Panel during the Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019

The key note address was delivered by H.E. MADAM REBECCA AKUFO-ADDO, The First Lady of Ghana along with

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


H.E. CLAR WEAH
The First Lady of Liberia


H.E. GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA
The First Lady of Malawi


H.E.  AISHA BUHARI
The First Lady of Nigeria


H.E. FATIMA MAADA BIO
The First Lady of Sierra Leone


H.E. ESTHER LUNGU
The First Lady of Zambia and


H.E. AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA
The First Lady of Zimbabwe


During the inaugural ceremony, the First Ladies who are also the Ambassadors of Merck More Than a Mother, were also recognized for their efforts to break the stigma of infertility in their respective countries.


H.E DENISE NKURUNZIZA, The First Lady of Burundi has been awarded to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Burundi and the rest of Africa. Also she has been awarded with Merck Foundation Creativity Award to compose and sing three songs to break the stigma around infertile women in Burundi as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother.


H.E. BRIGITTE TOUADERA, The First Lady of Central African Republic has been awarded to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in CAR and the rest of Africa as The First Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother.


H.E. HINDA DÉBY ITNO, First Lady of the Republic of Chad has been awarded to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Chad and the rest of Africa as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother.


H.E. CLAR WEAH, First Lady of Republic of Liberia has been awarded to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Liberia and the rest of Africa as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother.


H.E. PROF GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, the First Lady of Malawi has been awarded to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Malawi and the rest of Africa as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother


H.E. AISHA BUHARI, The First Lady of Nigeria  has been awarded to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Nigeria and the rest of Africa as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother and a new partner of Merck Foundation.


H.E FATIMA MAADA BIO The First Lady, Republic Of Sierra Leone has been awarded to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Sierra Leone and the rest of Africa as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother.


H.E. ESTHER LUNGU, The First Lady of Zambia has been awarded  to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Zambia and the rest of Africa as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother.


H.E AUXILLIA MNANGAGWA, the First Lady of Zimbabwe has been awarded to acknowledge her great efforts to build healthcare capacity and empower infertile women in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa as an Ambassador of Merck More Than a Mother and a new partner of Merck Foundation


Also, the partners for Merck Foundation were recognized and appreciated for the support they have been providing to run the programs of Merck Foundation successfully.


Hon. Sarah Opendi, Minister of State for Health, Republic of Uganda has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge her great support to our programs


Hon. Dr. Chitalu CHILUFYA, Minister of Health, Republic of Zambia has been awarded  with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


Minister of Health, Republic of The Gambia Hon. Dr. Ahmadou Samateh has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


Prof. Siddhartha Laskar, Dy. Director- Academics & Professor of Department of Radiation Oncology, on behalf of TATA Memorial Center, India has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs



Prof. Nicholas Anthony Othieno- Abhinya, Prof. of Medicine, Director of Medical Oncology Fellowship Program, on behalf of University of Nairobi, Kenya has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


Dr. Rasha Kamal, Head of the Central Administration for International Students Affairs, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Arab Republic of Egypt, has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge her great support to our programs


Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society, Nigeria has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson, Past President of IFFS, Scientific Chair 2019 IFFS World Congress (Shanghai) has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


Prof. Justin Mboloko Esimo, President of GIERAF, Democratic Republic of Congo has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


Dr. Kamini Rao, Medical Director Milann- The fertility Center & International Institute for Training & Research in Reproductive Health (IIRRH), has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge her great support to our programs


Dr. Kshitiz Murdia, Medical Director of the Indira IVF Hospitals Pvt. Ltd. India has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


Prof. Dr. Satish Kumar Adiga, Professor & Head, Department of Clinical Embryology, KMC, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India, has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


Prof. Tarek Khairy, Vice Dean of National Cancer Institute, Cairo University, Cairo has been awarded with a Merck Foundation Partnership Award to acknowledge his great support to our programs


During the Inauguration Session on the 29th of October, two High–Level Ministerial Panel where conducted where the Ministers of Health, Information, Gender, Education & Science shared solutions and activities to help in Building Quality and Equitable Healthcare Capacity in Africa. Also, there was a discussion about Innovative initiatives to Sensitize Communities about Health and Sensitive Issues like infertility.


Left to right Hon. Dr. Thadée NDIKUMANA Minister of Public Health and Fighting against AIDS, Republic of Burundi, Hon. Jappie Chancy Mtuwa Mhango Minister of Health and Population, Republic of Malawi, Hon. Prof. Mahamoud Youssouf  KHAYAL Minister of Public Health, Republic of Chad, , Hon. Dr. Hon. Dr. Ahmadou Samateh Minister of Health, Republic of The Gambia, Hon. Sarah Opendi Minister of State for Health, Republic of Uganda, Dr. Rasha Kelej CEO of Merck Foundation Co-Chairperson of Merck Africa Asia Luminary, Hon. Dr. Obadiah Moyo Minister of Health and Child Care, Republic of Zimbabwe, Hon. Dr. Wilhemina S. Jallah Minister of Health, Republic of Liberia, Dr. Rasha Kamal Head of the Central Administration for International Students Affairs, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Arab Republic of Egypt, Hon. Dr. Chitalu Chilufya Minister of Health, Republic of Zambia During the High level Ministerial Panel on “Advancing Quality and Equitable Healthcare Capacity in Africa in Partnership with Merck Foundation” at 6th Edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019


Left to right Dr. Kamini Rao Medical Director, Milann-The Fertility Centre, India, Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson Past President of International Federation for Fertility Societies (IFFS), USA, Hon. Dr. William Susuwele-Banda, M.P., Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Republic of Malawi, Hon. Mary Thom Navicha M.P. & Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Republic of Malawi, Hon. Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng Minister of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation, Republic of Ghana, , Dr. Rasha Kelej CEO of Merck Foundation Co-Chairperson of Merck Africa Asia Luminary, Hon. Cynthia Mamle Morrison Minister for Gender, Children, and Social Protection and MP, Republic of Ghana, Hon. Mark Michael Botomani Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, Republic of Malawi, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru President of Africa Fertility Society, Nigeria , Prof. Chittaranjan N. Purandare Imm. Past President of FIGO, India, Hon. Mariama Sylla, Minister of Gender, Republic of Guinea During the High-level Ministerial Panel on ‘Innovative initiatives to Sensitize Communities about Health and Sensitive Issues such as Launching Media Training, Art projects & Local Songs, Films and Children Stories’- Multisectoral Approach is the Key. at 6th Edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019

During Merck Africa Asia Luminary, more than 1000 Healthcare providers, policy makers, academia, researchers and health media from Sub- Saharan Africa, more than 50 English, French and Portuguese speaking countries benefitted from valuable educational and social development sessions by top International experts in Diabetes, Fertility, Oncology, Women health and Cardiology with the aim to raise health awareness and improve disease management, early detection and prevention, build healthcare capacity and improve access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions across the continent.

The African First Ladies also participated in the Merck Foundation First Ladies Initiative Committee meeting which was also conducted during the two-day Luminary. 


Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation with H.E. CLAR MARIE WEAH, The First Lady of Liberia and H.E. PROF. GERTRUDE MUTHARIKA, The First Lady of Malawi during MFFLI Commitee meeting.


Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO Merck Foundation with H.E. Denise Nkurunziza, The First Lady of Burundi, H.E. Brigitte Touadera, The First Lady of Central African Republic, H.E. Hinda Deby Itno, First Lady of the, Republic of Chad, H.E. Clar Weah, The First Lady of Republic of Liberia, H.E. Professor Gertrude Mutharika, The First Lady of Malawi, Prof. Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Chairman of Board of Trustees of Merck Foundation, H.E. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, The First Lady of Ghana, H.E. Aisha Buhari, First Lady of Nigeria, H.E Fatima Maada Bio, The First Lady of Sierra Leone, H.E. Madam Esther Lungu, The First Lady of Zambia, H.E. Auxillia Mnangagwa, The First Lady of Zimbabwe.


The new Edition of Merck Foundation's “UNESCO – Merck Africa Research Summit (MARS) 2019” in partnership with African Union in ACCRA, GHANA on 30th of October 2019 during their annual conference “Merck Africa Asia Luminary”. The Summit aims to contribute to building research capacity in African research community and discuss challenges, opportunities & proposed strategies to support health decision making that address Health and Sustainability challenges in low-and middle-income countries.


UNESCO Merck Africa Reaserch Summit Meeting during 6th Edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019, Accra, Ghana .


UNESCO Merck Africa Reaserch Summit Meeting during 6th Edition of Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019, Accra, Ghana .

During the conference, Merck Foundation also marked an important occasion; the 2nd Anniversary of Merck Foundation.

Winners of ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ Media Recognition, Fashion and Film Awards of Ghana were also announced during the Award ceremony on 29th of October night.



Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with the Merck More Than a Mother Fashion Awards, Ghana during the Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019


Dr. Rasha Kelej, H.E Madam Fatima Maada Bio, The First Lady of Sierra Leone, H.E Madam  Clar Weah, The First Lady of Liberia , H.E Madam Esther Lungu, The First Lady of Zambia presenting the award to Keziah Ansah-Mensah. , winner of MMTM Fashion Awards and her winning design


One of the Winning Designs of MMTM, Fashion Awards 2019 depicting messages to break the infertility stigma around infertile women


One of the Winning Designs of MMTM, Fashion Awards 2019 depicting messages to break the infertility stigma around infertile women

Find all Designs from winners and Fashion Show Pictures here

Moreover, a beautiful and empowering song composed by local Ghanaian singers was released with the aim to empower women in general and infertile women in particular.

Countries participating include: Bangladesh, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, CAR, Chad, DR Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Niger-Nigeria, Nigeria, Philippines, Republic of Congo, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Togo, UAE, USA, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Merck Africa Asia Luminary 2019 
Scientific Book

Download here


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 Oncology at Cairo University - Egypt, in partnership with African Ministries of Health, Local Governments and Academia.

Launched in 2016, over 70 candidates from more than 25 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, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, DRC, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gabon, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign;

“Merck More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign 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, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists 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 local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with African First Ladies and women leaders and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child. 

Merck Foundation provided for more than 140 candidates, three months to six months clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists in more than 35 countries across Africa and Asia such as: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, CAR, Cote D'IVOIRE, DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malaysia, Liberia, Mali, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Niger, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, The Gambia, Togo, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia & Zimbabwe.




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 COMMUNITY AWARENESS CAPAIGN, 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
  • Children storybook, localized for each country

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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 www.merck-foundation.com to read more. To know more, reach out to our social media: Merck Foundation; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Flicker.

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Founded in 1668, Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma.