By: Nyima Sillah
The Gambia First Lady Her Excellency Fatoumatta Bah Barrow on Tuesday 15th November 2022, joined the rest of the African First Ladies to participate in the 9th Edition of African Asia Luminary 2022, held in Dubai.
Addressing the gathering in Dubai, Her Excellency Fatoumatta Bah Barrow heightened the achievements made by her foundation and the impacts of the activities done by Merck Foundation in The Gambia.
Madam Bah Barrow told the gathering that since the start of the partnership in 2018 through her office and her foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Health, they had provided more than 60 scholarships to young Gambian doctors. She added that specialist training is also provided for the first time in some areas to ensure that all the healthcare needs of Gambians are met by qualified experts.
“We welcome the socialization of Merck to address the health issues in my country and together we launched our long-term partnership to build a health care capacity in the next ten years,” she said.
First Lady expressed gratitude to Dr Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and President of Merck Foundation saying she’s “More than a Mother” in ensuring that capacities are built and obtain significant impacts to transform the landscape of the health care sector in The Gambia by providing special training for local doctors and other health professionals.”
She continued that “Our partnership is growing stronger each year and I am happy to say that we have achieved mile stone together indeed we had a significant impact in a very short period. Building healthcare capacity in various fields and rising awareness on fraternal issues including infertility, prevention, management, male infertility, Covid-19 just to name a few.”
The First Lady also said they constantly partner with the Ministry of Health, gender education, and communication to sensitize the communities on these issues. And also, encourage other statements of society by providing mentorship programs for partners within the media, entertainment, and fashion industry to provide their effective role in community awareness on health-related matters and others.
“Another effective communication tool that we have adopted is the distribution of children’s story books. Such stories have underlying messages to address different forms of discrimination, gender-based violence, cultural-related barriers the global Covid-19 pandemic, and others. Such harmful practices can be reduced through advocacy and access to information therefore confident that it will make a huge difference in creating a cultural shift,” she added.
Madam bah went on: “We will soon be launching another 5 important books in child marriage, promotion of girls education putting an end to GBV as well as raising awareness on diabetes and hypertension which are common in The Gambia.”
Speaking further, Her Excellency proposed to partners to consider issues like cancer, and fistula as part of the sensitization campaign, during the health care training package and other future programs. Adding that cancer is also causing millions of death each year among African women and more efforts need to be done in terms of awareness.
“Each year many African women and girls suffer from various health conditions due to lack of information and knowledge, therefore, education is important and for this reason, we continue to empower girls’ education,” she informed co-attendees.
Addressing the gathering, the CEO Dr Rasha Keleg, said the conference will help to discuss strategies and solutions to improve quality healthcare delivery in various African Countries. The Merck Foundation, she said, has realized the strategy to improve access to quality healthcare solutions in each country in Africa.
Also, Merck Foundation through its scholarships has built the capacities of medical doctors across various African countries in diabetes, cardiovascular, endocrinology, cancer, fertility care, women’s health, sexual and reproductive care, respiratory medicines acute medicines, and research.
“I am proud to learn that the partnership between my foundation and office of about 20 African First Ladies has already allocated over 1400 scholarships to young doctors from across the continent, with close to 50% being girls. This is a great milestone for us,” she said.
She noted that it was the foundation goal to train more health personnel in areas of Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, Mental Health, Orthopedics, Trauma, Pediatric, Emergency Medicine Dermatology, Neonatology Medicine, Pain Management, Psychiatry, Clinical Microbiology, Infectious Diseases, Ophthalmology, Urology, Trauma, and Orthopedists.
Chairman of both the Executive Board of E. Merck KG and Merck Foundation also addressed the gathering.