Merck Foundation Marks World ART

(Last Updated On: July 27, 2020)(Artificial Reproductive Technology) Day for

Training local Embryologists and Fertility Specialists across Africa and Asia

Merck Foundation provides long term hands-on Embryology & Fertility Specialists training to develop local Embryologists & Fertility Experts across Africa and Asia. 

Merck Foundation makes history by training the first African Embryologists and Fertility Experts in many countries such as; The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea, Chad, Niger, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks ‘World ART Day 2020’ through providing long term hands-on embryology training and clinical fertility specialists training to develop local Embryologists and fertility specialists to improve access to quality and cost-effective fertility care in Africa and Asia, this is as part of Merck More than a Mother campaign.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation, President of Merck More than a Mother and One of 100 Most Influential Africans (2019) emphasized, “I strongly believe in the critical role of Embryologists and fertility specialists to empower infertile women through improving their access to information, change of mindset and quality & equitable fertility care. 

I am very proud that as part of ‘Merck More Than A Mother’ campaign in partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Academia and Fertility Societies, we were able to provide hands on long term embryology training  and clinical fertility specialists to develop more than 182 local Embryologists & Fertility Experts from 35 countries, many of them were trained to be the first local embryologists in many countries where they never had local embryologists or fertility specialists before such as; The Gambia, Burundi, Guinea, Niger, Chad, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Liberia. Together with you, Merck Foundation Alumni and our partners, we are making history and reshaping the landscape of fertility care”.
Merck Foundation will also provide on line one-year diploma and two years master degree in sexual and reproductive medicines from UK University to more than 80 doctors from Africa and Asia to contribute to our mission to break the stigma around Infertility and reshape the landscape of fertility care in the global south. 

African First Ladies of 18 Countries are working closely with Merck Foundation as

Ambassadors of Merck more than a Mother including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone,

Niger, Namibia, Mozambique, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, The Gambia, DR Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Chad, CAR, Botswana and Burundi (former First Lady) and Malawi (Former First Lady).
“The African First Ladies have partnered with Merck Foundation to lead and execute many initiatives in their respective countries as Merck More Than a Mother Ambassadors to empower infertile women and break the stigma around infertility. This speaks volume about the work we are doing” added 

Dr. Rasha Kelej.
Merck Foundation has trained more than 82 Embryologists in addition to over 100 Fertility Specialists from 35 countries which are: Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso,
Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, CAR, Cote 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 & Zimbabwe.
Merck hands-on Embryology and Fertility specialists Training program is an ongoing initiative and Merck Foundation will continue to train more doctors and embryologist in more African, Asian and developing countries.

About Merck Fertility & Embryology Training Program

Merck Fertility specialists & Embryology Training Program was launched in 2016 as part of Merck More Than a Mother in partnership with African First Ladies and ministries of health. Under this program, Merck Foundation has been providing hands-on practical training to candidates from
Africa and Asia, in partnership with many training institutes such as; the Indonesian Reproductive Science Institute (IRSI), Indonesia; International Institute for Training and Research in Reproductive Health (IIRRH), India; Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), India and Indira IVF Hospitals, India.

About ‘Merck More Than a Mother’ campaign

“Merck More Than a Mother” is a strong movement that aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education and change of mind-sets. This powerful campaign supports governments in defining policies to enhance access to regulated, safe, effective and equitable fertility care solutions. It defines interventions to break the stigma around infertile women and raises awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility. In partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health, Information, Education & Gender, academia, policymakers, International fertility societies, media and art, the initiative also provides training for fertility specialists and embryologists to build and advance fertility care capacity in Africa and developing countries.

With “Merck More Than a Mother”, we have initiated a cultural shift to de-stigmatize infertility at all levels: By improving awareness, training local experts in the fields of fertility care and media, building advocacy in cooperation with African First Ladies and women leaders and by supporting childless women in starting their own small businesses. It’s all about giving every woman the respect and the help she deserves to live a fulfilling life, with or without a child. 

Merck Foundation launched new innovative initiatives to sensitize local communities about infertility prevention, male infertility with the aim to break the stigma of infertility and empowering infertile women as part of Merck More than a Mother COMMUNITY AWARENESS
CAMPAIGN, such as;

‘Merck More than a Mother’ Media Recognition Awards and Health Media Training
‘Merck More than a Mother’ Fashion Awards
‘Merck More than a Mother’ Film Awards
Local songs with local artists to address the cultural perception of infertility and how to change it
Children storybook, localized for each country

About Merck Foundation The Merck Foundation, established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth. All Merck Foundation press releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Foundation

Namibia’s living museums face uncertain future amid COVID-19 pandemic

Mafwe Living Museum.The Mafwe present their old, almost forgotten culture. (Image Courtsey of Museums Association of Namibia)

The outbreak of COVID-19 has put the existence of Namibia’s living museums in jeopardy as they struggle to stay-afloat with no income coming in from international tourists.

Just like all country’s in the world, Namibia’s tourism sector has been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19 with zero international tourists since March.

This has affected the country’s living museums which get about 96 percent of income from international tourists.

Elizabeth Yalezo has been part of the Mafwe Living Museum in the northern Zambezi region for the past 10 years teaching tourists about the local silozi culture.

She made a commitment to uproot her family and live at the museum doing what she loves but the outbreak of COVID-19 is threatening her livelihood.

“We have had no income for the past four months, we are hungry,” Yalezo said.

Previously when Namibia’s tourism industry was booming, the museum would sometimes make over a 100,000 Namibian dollars (about 5,682 U.S. dollars) a month, which would be shared among the 45 members.

“We used to make a lot of money but once it is shared between all the members it is not a lot. Unfortunately we have not been able to build up reserves in previous years. we have all been surviving from hand to mouth, thus we are starving at the moment,” she said.

The Namibian government gave aid of 750 Namibian dollars to Namibians who lost their jobs because of COVID-19 but unfortunately this was not applicable to communal projects.

The situation has been made worse because even though local tours were allowed after the countrywide lockdown, the Namibian economy is so weakened that there are hardly any people travelling.

“If we were at least getting local visitors it would have been better but there are no visitors coming. We really need assistance,” Yalezo said.

The living museums in Namibia are exceptional traditional projects where visitors can learn about the cultures of the different tribes in the country.

The museums were established with the aim of preserving the country’s traditional culture while also fighting poverty in rural areas through income generated from the museums.

At the living museums, tourists get a chance to experience interactive learning of different Namibian cultures where they live at the museums for a couple of days seeing how the tribes live their lives.

According to a representative from Namibia Living Culture Foundation Sebastian Durrschmidt, the living museums have done very well for surrounding communities in terms of income generation and exposure.

He said, the museums are the only employers in the six villages where they were developed and the loss of income also means a subsequent collapse of all income for the remaining village communities.

“Over 2,000 lives are at risk of losing income and their livelihoods. The living museums are at the brink of collapsing if tourism does not start soon,” Durrschmidt added.

Statistics from the Living Culture Foundation show that during 2017 and 2018 when Namibia’s tourism was at its peak, all six living museums were visited by about 30,000 tourists.

“A high number of visitors means a good income for the communal living museums. The income will not only provide food security but also school fees. Some invest in livestock and vegetable gardens,” Durrschmidt said.

Rimunatavi Tjipurua, a manager at the Ovahimba Living Museum, said life at the communal museum had become unbearable and sad.

Namibia this month opened its borders to international tourists but with the surge in cases where the country recorded over 1, 000 positive cases in just two weeks, the tourism sector is doubtful that tourism will pick up anytime soon.

The country has far recorded 2,802 COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths.

Egypt’s COVID-19 cases rise to 95,314

People wearing face masks are seen in a shopping mall in Cairo, Egypt, on Aug. 7, 2020. Egypt registered on Friday 141 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total infections in the country to 95,147, said the Egyptian Health Ministry. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)

Egypt confirmed on Saturday 167 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total infections in the country to 95,314, said the Health Ministry.

It is the seventh consecutive day for the daily COVID-19 infections in Egypt to fall below 200. The daily count started to exceed 200 on April 23 before hitting a record 1,774 on June 19.

Meanwhile, 21 patients died from the coronavirus on Saturday, taking the death toll in Egypt to 4,992, while 1,119 more patients left hospitals, bringing the total recoveries to 51,672, the ministry’s spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.

Egypt decided last week to ban the entry into the country without a negative PCR test for COVID-19, except for tourists arriving on direct flights at the airports of Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, Taba and Marsa Alam.

The most populous Arab country announced its first confirmed COVID-19 case on Feb. 14 and the first death from the highly infectious virus on March 8.

From the first week of July, the daily coronavirus infections and fatalities in Egypt started to gradually decline along with an increase in daily recoveries.

Egypt resumed international flights in early July, after it lifted a partial curfew imposed since late March, and reopened restaurants, cafes, theaters and cinemas, as well as hotels, museums and archeological sites, all with limited capacity.

Easing restrictions is part of a coexistence plan adopted by the government to maintain anti-coronavirus precautionary measures while resuming economic activities.

Egypt and China have been working together on fighting the pandemic through exchanging medical aid and expertise.

In early February, Egypt provided aid to China to help with its fight against COVID-19 and China later sent three batches of medical aid to the North African country, the latest of which was in mid-May.

Merck Foundation joins hands with First Ladies of Africa to raise awareness about Coronavirus and how to stay safe and healthy

Merck Foundation (, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany together with African First Ladies of Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Guinea Conakry, Burundi, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), Chad, Zimbabwe, Zambia, The Gambia, Liberia and Congo Brazzaville, announced the call for applications for their ‘Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards for African countries. The theme of the awards is ‘Raising Awareness on how to Stay Safe and keep Physically and Mentally Healthy during Coronavirus Lockdown’.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation explains, “This unsettling period due to the coronavirus scare is difficult for everyone – both physically and mentally. While most countries are under complete lockdown or restricted movement, people do not know how to handle this situation. Social Distancing is our Social Responsibility and the only way to kill Coronavirus, however, it will take a lot of courage and discipline to practice it. Taking good care of your mental and physical health is important during this period. So, we decided to initiate these awards in order to reward the journalists who are raising awareness in most effective and creative way on how to keep safe and keep physically & mentally healthy during this phase”.

All the journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms from English speaking, French speaking, Arabic speaking and Portuguese speaking African countries are invited to send their entries for the awards. The most creative and influential media work aiming to raise awareness and sensitizing communities about this alarming topic at a regular basis will be eligible to win these awards.

“We have created four categories for Africa; English, French, Portuguese and Arabic speaking countries”, Dr Kelej added.

Merck Foundation will extend the awards to include Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian Countries in the next few days to involve all media across the global South. 

“Since most of the people are confined to their homes, they are spending a lot of time reading and listening to news through different platforms. Media professionals, it is your time to help the people to take care good care of their mental & physical health during these disturbing times, through your creative, informational and motivational work. You can guide them to adjust to their new and different routine & rhythm of life”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Details of the Merck Foundation “Stay at Home” Media Recognition Awards

Who can Apply:

Journalists from Print, Online, Radio and Multimedia Platforms from English speaking, French speaking, Arabic speaking and Portuguese speaking African countries

Last date of submission:

Entries can be submitted till 30th June 2020

How to apply?

Entries can be submitted via Email to along with your details (including Name, Gender, Country, Media house, Email address & Mobile Number) and entry as an attachment

Categories and Prize Money:

Prize Money(Upto)USD 500USD 500USD 500USD 500

UN chief calls for better urban preparedness to ward off future health crises

By Jerry Omondi

FILE PHOTO: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the opening of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2018. /Reuters Photo‍

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called upon governments to “rethink and reshape the urban world” to ensure they are better prepared for any future crises.

Guteres said the inequalities and shortcomings that exist in many urban regions globally have helped fuel the spread of COVID-19.

“And now is our chance to recover better, by building more resilient, inclusive and sustainable cities”, he said in his recorded message launching the latest UN policy brief, “COVID-19 in an urban world”.

The UN chief highlighted deeply rooted inequalities in the poorest areas, citing strained health systems, inadequate water and other challenges that cities are facing in common, with 90 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases concentrated in urban areas.

His message comes as the world’s number of COVID-19 infections have surpassed 16.5 million with a death toll exceeding 654,000.

“We must prioritize those who are the most vulnerable in our cities, including guaranteeing safe shelter for all and emergency housing to those without homes,” said Guterres.

He called upon governments to put more focus on informal settlements in efforts to strengthen their preparedness for any future health crises.

Kenya’s education sector facing a crisis

By Halligan Agade –

Kenya’s education sector is facing a looming crisis as thousands of private schools risk closure permanently.

Many are unable to pay workers and meet their rental obligations and with the school calendar suspended until 2021, an uncertain future awaits.

And as CGTN’s Robert Nagila reports, once filled with sounds of children playing Now…. silence rings the air at the little paws Kindergarten playground in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

The suspension of the school calendar by the government in March, to control the spread of COVID-19, the owner has now been forced to temporarily shut down.

Mugure Nderitu, Owner, Little Paws Kindergarten, Nairobi submits:”Schools operate based on cash flow and cash flow is based on students, if we don’t have students there is no way we will be able to meet our costs.”

The school has been able to stay afloat through donations from parents, but with the reopening date pushed from September this year to January 2020, tough decisions must be made if it is to survive.

“I am at the point now where I am now thinking what to do. Currently  I still have all my staff and I need to figure out where to pay them from,” Mugure says.

The Kenya Private school association says about 100 schools have already shut their doors permanently and a majority of Kenya’s 11,000 private learning institutions are reeling from the impact of the pandemic.

Jane Mwangi, coodinator, Kenya Association of International Schools says that, “We are watching self sufficient teachers lose their source of livelihood, as well as school owners get into debilitating debt.”

However, the situation is further compounded by the fact that public schools cannot accommodate all the learners. A crisis with no agreed upon solution beckons in the education sector.

“There are some places that have 44 private schools to the one public school and so when these schools close we are looking at about a million, two million children who may have to join public schools and there is already over crowding there, so social distancing is not something we can achieve,” Jane Mwangi, coodinator, Kenya Association of International Schools.

Bailout talks are ongoing with the government.

Cameroon Prime Minister Orders Investigations Into Management of COVID Funds

By Moki Edwin Kindzeka
Cameroon Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute speaks during a meeting on the country’s reconstruction, in Yaounde, Dec. 5, 2019. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)

White House Looks to Cover 70% of Jobless Workers’ Previous WagesSpain Disputes Britain’s Claim It Is Unsafe for TouristsUNHCR: Refugees Unlawfully Detained Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic Must Be Released

YAOUNDE – Cameroon has bowed to pressure from rights groups and ordered investigations into the management of the COVID-19 solidarity fund contributed to by civilians. The rights groups said most of the $40 million cash and material had been embezzled. An outcry was sparked after rights groups said 4,000 bags of rice donated to COVID-19 patients were illegally sold.

About two dozen people are this Monday morning at the Messassi government hospital in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde for consultations. Among them is 27-year- old Ernestine Sahmo who is visiting for her weekly diabetes control. Sahmo says she and other patients are surprised at the absence of COVID-19 prevention kits at the hospital. 
“Most of the time you go there and there is no water. You just find a bucket being placed there without any water in it and at times too you don’t even meet soap,” she said.

The hospital officials declined to comment on the absence of soap to wash hands. But the government of Cameroon said enough thermometers, soap, disinfectants, hand sanitizers, face masks, medicines and sufficient quantities of water were distributed all over the country. 
The government said it used money contributed to a COVID-19 solidarity fund to buy the COVID kits. Cameroon president Paul Biya contribited $ 1.8 million to the fund. 
Other contributions were received from civilians, companies, minister, lawmakers and senior sate functionaries.    
Cameroon also received assistance to fight COVID-19 from foreign governments. The central African state said it received $226 million in emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund. 
Other people contributed food with a local company handing to the government huge quantities of rice. 
Apande Fadimatou of the NGO “Health fo All” says the government should give an account of how much it received and how much it spent. Fadimatou says some of the medicines the government claims it purchased have not been seen. She says she believes some money, food and nonfood items have been diverted. 

She says she is surprised that even for the sake of governance and to respect Cameroon public management principles, an audit has not been conducted on the COVID-19 solidarity fund ordered by Cameroon president Paul Biya. She says the government should give the right information to civilians if it ordered the 4,000 bags of rice weighing 50 kilograms each and some COVID-19 protective materials donated by the people to be sold because it needed money to buy COVID-19 rapid test kits as some people claim. 

Cameroon health minister Manaouda Malachie says neither the funds nor the goods had been diverted. 

He says the ministry of health with the ministries of territorial administration, finance and trade made sure food items were distributed to all hospitals with COVID-19 patients. He says some food was given to Cameroon’s 10 regional governors to distribute to families and communities hardest hit by COVID-19.

Manaouda says face masks, hand sanitizers, soap and buckets were shared to civilians, and protective kits for hospital staff members distributed in hospitals. He says independent control teams and solicitors were invited to follow up the process and render accounts in case there is need.  

Manouda said the government had spent more than $40 million from the fund and from government contributions since March when the first case of COVID-19 was reported. He did not state how much has been contributed. 
Manouda said following requests by rights groups and civilians, Cameroon prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute has ordered an investigation into how the funds and material were used. 
In July, Human Rights Watch asked Cameroon to disburse funds to support health care facilities responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and investigate any missing funds. 

Ghana’s COVID-19 cases surpass 24,000

Ghana, Accra, Busy street scene in the city centre. (Photo by: Eye Ubiquitous/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Ghana’s COVID-19 cases have increased to 24,248, with 414 more infections confirmed here late Saturday, said the latest update from the Ghana Health Service (GHS).

The update said the health authorities had discharged 619 more infected people under treatment, bringing the number of recovered and discharged cases to 19, 831, while the number of deaths stood at 135.

The Saturday night update also put the number of active COVID-19 cases in the West African country at 4,282, as President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo spent his eighth day in self-isolation after a close associate of his tested positive for the pandemic.

Ghana has passed a law to enforce the wearing of face masks in public, in a bid to control and end the continued spread of the pandemic in the country.

Ethiopia: Oromo Singer, Songwriter Haacaaluu Shot Dead

Haacaaluu Hundeessa’s music gave sound and voice to the Oromo struggle.

Addis Standard (Addis Ababa)

Artist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, the prominent Oromo singer, songwriter, is shot dead today in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Abeba around Galan Condominium site. He was admitted to Tirunesh Beijing General Hospital but died of his injuries shortly after. R.I.P!

A senior security official from #AddisAbeba police Commission who spoke to AS said security forces have received a phone call alert about an hour & half ago and investigating the incident. “Further info will be available soon,” he said.

Addis Abeba Police Commission Commissioner Getu Argaw told EBC Haacaaluu, 36, was shot dead in Akaki Kality Sub City Wereda 4, Galan Condominium site. Investigations are launched & “some suspects” are under police custody. The Commissioner has appealed for calm.

PM Abiy expressed condolences to all who are grieving the loss of the “incredible & shining young artist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.”& said they were expecting reports of the investigations. “We are at a time when, by understanding the depth of the incident, we pay attention to events happening in our country. Let’s express our grievances while taking care of ourselves and preventing additional crimes,” PM Abiy said.

Reference :

114-year-old Ethiopian monk survives coronavirus

An Ethiopian Orthodox monk whose family says he is 114 years old has survived the coronavirus. Tilahun Woldemichael was discharged from a hospital on Thursday after almost three weeks.

He received oxygen and dexamethasone, a cheap and widely available steroid that researchers in England have said reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalized patients.

Ethiopia’s health minister has said the ministry recommends the emergency use of the drug for COVID-19 patients who require ventilation or oxygen.

Tilahun’s grandson Biniam Leulseged said he has no birth certificate to prove the monk’s age, but he showed a photo of him celebrating his 100th birthday. “He was looking young back then, too,” Biniam told The Associated Press on Saturday.

He said he was emotional when his grandfather was taken to the hospital but “I am very happy because we are together again.” Ethiopia has more than 5,200 confirmed cases of the virus.

By Africanews