The 8th edition of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary 2021, has opened online, with various African first ladies committing to building stronger partnerships in promoting the health and social needs of women and girls.
Held on the theme: “Together we make a difference,” the Luminary formed part of a three-day video conference co-chaired by Mrs Esther Lungu, First Lady of Zambia and Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation.
Dr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia and Professor Dr. Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Board Chairman of Merck Foundation Board of Trustees, gave the Inaugural speeches at the opening.
Among the participants were Ministers of Health, Gender, Information, Education and Science and Technology, from Africa as well as other healthcare providers, policymakers and media professionals from over 70 countries.
Welcoming the participants, Mrs Lungu, said though COVID-19 had inhibited the hosting of the conference physically in her country, she was optimistic that the virtual conference would go a long way to help improve health and education in participating countries.
Dr. Kelej, on her part, said the conference was expected to discuss strategies to build capacities of policy makers, healthcare providers, academia and media in an open dialogue on various topics with the aim to improve access to quality and equitable healthcare.
Outlining some benefits Ghana had derived from her partnership with Merck Foundation, First Lady Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, stated that more than 60 healthcare providers in the county received critical training in the fields of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiology, Endocrinology, Respiratory and Acute Medicines, Sexual and Reproductive Medicines, Fertility and Embryology.
She said it included 12 doctors who had completed their one year diploma in Diabetes, eleven in Cardiovascular Preventive Medicines, with five concluding a one-year online Endocrinology programme, and two doctors graduating from an Oncology Fellowship and another undergoing a Masters’ Degree in Medical Oncology.
She charged her counterparts first ladies to work together with their husbands and utilise the partnership in forming robust health systems that could withstand future pandemics.
Other participating first ladies who shared their achievements from the partnership with Merck Foundation, emphasised on the need to rally their countries to promote programmes that would positively impact on the dignity of women and girls.
Dr Lungu urged African governments to endeavour to pursue policies that would keep their people healthy and productive.