By: Nyima Sillah
Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and Chairperson of Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary has applauded H.E. Mrs. Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, the First Lady of The Gambia and Ambassador of Merck Foundation “More Than a Mother” for a fruitful long term partnership, since 2017.
Giving an overview of the Merck Foundation Partnership with the First Lady, Senator Dr. Rasha said their partnership journey is growing from strength to strength as they have achieved many significant milestones since 2017 when she hosted Merck Foundation CEO, and together they launched the programs in her country.
She noted that she had a long meeting with the First Lady during the 9th edition of Luminary to discuss their joint programs, and strategy, report its impact, and also to discuss the impact of ongoing programs, and define strategies to further build healthcare and media capacity in The Gambia.
“I am proud to share that we have provided 34 scholarships to young Gambian doctors in many critical and underserved specialties including Fertility and Embryology, Oncology, Diabetes, Endocrinology, Sexual and Reproductive Medicine, Respiratory Medicine and Acute Medicine.
“Together, we are making history in The Gambia by providing training to first specialists in many fields such as Oncology, Respiratory, Fertility, Embryology, Reproductive Care, Diabetes, Endocrinology, and more,” she noted.
According to her, they are also working on various initiatives to raise awareness about critical social and health issues like Breaking the Infertility Stigma, supporting Girl Education, Stopping GBV, Ending Child Marriage and FGM, and diabetes and hypertension awareness.
“We have launched together 7 children’s storybooks on these issues to sensitize them from young ages. We have also launched awards of best media, song, film, and fashion designs to encourage our journalists and artists to raise awareness on these important topics,” she said.
However, she added 5 scholarships have been provided for Diabetes specialty training, 2 scholarships for the Oncology Fellowship program, 7 scholarships for One Year PG Diploma and a two-year Master’s degree in Acute Medicine and Respiratory Medicine, and also 1 scholarship for Two years PG Diploma in Neonatal Medicine, to also be the first specialists in their country.
“Merck Foundation has always believed in the importance of building healthcare capacity and has been working towards this since 2012. We will continue to provide medical training to Gambian doctors in various medical specialties in partnership with the First Lady of The Gambia”, Senator Dr. Rasha Kelej assured.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Rasha further stated that Merck Foundation in partnership with The Gambia First Lady has also initiated their program “Educating Linda”, to support the education of 20 underprivileged but brilliant schoolgirls by providing scholarships till they graduate.
Further to that, she said 3000 sets of essential school items were provided to Gambian school-going girls.
“Merck Foundation together with The First Lady of Gambia conducted their online Health Media Training and also celebrated the winners of the Merck Foundation Media Recognition Awards. The training was conducted to emphasize the critical role of media to sensitize the communities about social and health issues such as: breaking the infertility stigma, ending child marriage, supporting girl education, and diabetes and hypertension prevention and early detection.
“Merck Foundation also announced the Call for applications for their 8 important awards in partnership with The First Lady of The Gambia for Media, Musicians, Fashion Designers, Filmmakers, students, and new potential talents in these fields. Merck Foundation in partnership with The Gambia First Lady has also launched an empowering song to break the stigma around infertility in Africa and the rest of the world as part of the ‘More than a Mother’ community awareness campaign.”