Fred Ezeh, Abuja
In a bid to increase the limited number of Oncologists across Africa, Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health, have provided opportunity for 80 oncologists from 26 African countries to participate in different academic programmes that would further build their capacity and put them in better position to fight cancer in Africa.
Chief Executive Officer of Merck Foundation, Dr. Rasha Kelej, in a statement, disclosed that the Foundation made history in Africa recently, when it successfully completed the training of first African oncologists and cancer care teams in The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger.
She said the objective of the intervention was to develop a multidisciplinary Oncology care team in each African country just like other fields of medicine notably, Pediatric, Gynecology, Radiation Oncologists, Nursing, Pathologist and Radiology Technician.
“As an African woman, I am proud that we are making history in Africa through training the first oncologists and first cancer care teams in many countries such as; The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger.
“Our main objective is to provide quality and affordable care to patients who never had anyone to care of them before,” she said.
She, however, made references to available cancer data which indicated that the burden of cancer in Africa is growing with recent estimate reporting 1.06 million new diagnosed cancer cases per year.
This figure, she added, is expected to increase to 2.12 million by 2040. While the burden of cancer in Africa is rapidly rising, she observed that there is a very limited number of oncologists and lack of investment in building professional cancer care capacity across the continent.
“Therefore, we strongly believe that building professional healthcare capacity is the right strategy to address this pressing challenge. It’s an ongoing initiative and the aim is to build cancer care capacity. We plan to scale it up to train more doctors in more African countries,” Dr. Kelej added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kelej, in the statement, said that the First Lady of The Gambia, Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, commended Merck Foundation for the programme, which she said, had added great value to the country, by providing specialty training of the first oncologists in the country.
On her side, the First Lady of Liberia, Clar Marie Weah emphasized that Merck Foundation is the first to provide such valuable specialty training to oncologists in Liberia. “They have also provided the training for the first fertility specialists, embryologists and diabetes specialists in my country, Liberia.”
She also confirmed that the Foundation had agreed to provide an online one year diploma and two year master degree programme in respiratory medicines, cardiovascular medicines, sexual and reproductive medicines, acute medicines and endocrinology for Liberia and of course the rest of Africa.