Over 180 fertility specialists trained in Africa through Merck Foundation

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Sharon Kavhu

Windhoek Over 180 doctors across Africa and Asia have received clinical and practical training for fertility specialists and embryologists under Merck Foundation’s Embryology and Fertility Program, The Southern Times has learnt.

The initiative which is also part of the foundation’s ‘More Than A Mother’ campaign which has trained doctors from countries such as: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, CAR, Côte 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 and  Zimbabwe.

In an interview, Merck Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Rasha Kelej told The Southern Times that the program has introduced debut fertility specialists and embryologists training programs in some African countries.

“We are very proud that we made history in many countries where we trained the first fertility specialists and embryologists. These countries include: Divas, Chad, Nige, Central African Republic, Zambian, Malawi, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Rwanda,” said Kelej.

“Through Merck Foundation’s Embryology and Fertility Program, doctors now appreciate the psychological and emotional stress that infertile couples face and the best ways to address their needs accordingly. Fertility specialists in Africa have been exposed to better ways of counselling their patients to ensure that they are emotionally stable while attending to their medical needs.”

Kelej said the training has significantly increased the numbers and broadened the understanding of fertility specialists across Africa and Asia on how infertility clinics should be conducted in order to break the infertility stigma, and encourages men to join their wives for treatment. She said the training is also a huge positive step towards creating awareness on infertility prevention.

She added, “The doctors we trained have taken an extra mile in their approach, the training graduates from Ghana and Liberia for instance, have moved into communities to educate people on infertility and the need to break the stigma around infertile couples and especially around women.”

Merck Foundation has also supported the establishment of the first ever Public In vitro fertilization (IVF) centres in Rwanda and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, in Uganda, Merck Foundation is still waiting for the list of candidates proposed by the country’s ministry of health to start the training program.

IVF is an assisted reproductive technology where fertilization is done by extracting eggs and retrieving sperm samples and then manually combining the egg and sperm in a laboratory dish.

“The IVF centres in those countries have recorded several stories and celebrations of first babies for couples who suffered infertility for over ten years. Such news gives us joy,” said Kelej.

She said at least 1,400 couples have benefited from the IVF sites in Rwanda and Ethiopia centres which are less than a year old. Rwanda and Ethiopia recorded 1,000 and 400 couples respectively.

While the COVID-19 phase has inconvenienced travelling, Merck Foundation has started a scholarship program for one year online diploma and two years master degree in sexual and reproductive medicines from the United Kingdom Universities. Kelej said her foundation is looking forward to receiving the most of proposed candidates from each African country and the program will scale up to South East Asia.

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