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.

Africa’s COVID-19 cases surge to 1.02 million

A health worker takes the temperature of a person standing in line for mass testing in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Saturday revealed that the number of COVID-19 cases across the African continent surged to 1,022,084.

The Africa CDC, a specialized healthcare agency of the 55-member African Union (AU) Commission, in its latest situation update issued on Saturday, said that the number of deaths related to COVID-19 rose from 22,066 on Friday to 22,461 on Saturday.

The continental disease control and prevention agency also said the number of people who recovered from their COVID-19 infections passed the 700,000 mark.

According to Africa CDC data, some 705,016 COVID-19 patients have recovered across the continent as of Saturday, an increase of 14,580 recoveries from Friday figures.

South Africa is Africa’s highest affected country in terms of positive cases, followed by Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria and Morocco, it was noted.

The Southern Africa region is the most affected area in terms of confirmed cases, followed by Northern Africa and Western Africa regions, the Africa CDC said.

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.

Uganda reopens zoo as lockdown restrictions ease

A man washes his hands before entering a shopping arcade in Kampala, Uganda, July 22, 2020. (Photo by Nicholas Kajoba/Xinhua)

Uganda on Saturday reopened the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC) for tourists as the East African country eases the COVID-19 lockdown restriction measures.

UWEC said in a statement that the conservation center, located about 40 kilometers south of the capital, Kampala, opened to tourists with strict adherence to standard operating procedures put in place to avoid the spread of novel coronavirus.

The measures include mandatory wearing of face masks, temperature screenings of tourists, social distancing and hand sanitizing.

“After being shuttered for five months, we are once again welcoming guests with strict adherence to the standard operating procedures that were launched by the ministry of tourism, wildlife and antiquities on Friday afternoon,” said the statement.

The development comes barely two months after the country reopened its national parks for tourism amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the parks and education center are now opened, Uganda’s borders and Entebbe International Airport remain closed as part of the government measures to avoid importing COVID-19 cases.

Tourism is one of Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earners, with the country set to lose about 1.6 billion U.S. dollars in tourism revenue because of COVID-19, according to the ministry of tourism.

Uganda, as of Aug. 7, has registered 1,267 cumulative cases of COVID-19, with 1,115 recoveries and six deaths since the index case was reported on March 21, according to the ministry of health.

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.

COVID-19: IMF approves $4.3 billion emergency package to help South Africa

By David Ochieng Mbewa

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The International Monetary Fund on Monday announced the approval of $4.3 billion in emergency support to South Africa to help it address the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Africa is Africa’s most industrialised country but has been severely affected socially and economically by the pandemic. With more than 445,000 confirmed cases, South Africa is the worst affected country in Africa accounting for more than half of the continent’s cases.

According to the South African government, the funding is a “low interest loan that contributes to government’s fiscal relief package.”

“The country has been hard hit by the pandemic, and this required government to come up with fiscal and monetary measures that would respond to the struggling economy and contain its negative effects to society,” a statement from South Africa’s National Treasury said.

The government added that the funds will go towards supporting health and frontline services, protecting the most vulnerable, driving job creation, unlocking economic growth through reforms and stabilising public debt.

“It will also pave the way for government to provide the necessary financial relief required to forge a new economy and mitigate further harm to the economy.”

A statement from the IMF said that the funding will fill the urgent Balance of Payment (BOP) need arising from the fiscal pressures posed by the pandemic. It adds that it will limit regional spillovers and catalyze additional financing from other international financial institutions.

“It will complement the authorities’ strong policy response to the crisis and their planned post-COVID-19 fiscal consolidation and reforms to promote growth that benefits all South Africans,” the IMF said.

According to a report by ratings agency S&P Global Ratings, South Africa’s economy is expected to contract by nearly 7 percent.

South Africa was quick to respond to the pandemic imposing some of the strictest measures globally including a two-month lockdown. However, the government subsequently came under heavy public pressure to relax the very same measures due to the economic hardships resulting from their implementation.

The government was forced to take drastic measures in an attempt to cushion the economy from the effects of the pandemic. In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa a 500 billion rand ($28.86 billion) relief package equivalent to 10 percent of the nation’s GDP to bolster the economy.

South Africa is one of many the countries that instituted gradual re-opening of their economies to allow citizens to try and make ends meet and ward off the prospect of long-term damage to their economies.

Uganda’s Museveni tests negative for COVID-19

By Jerry Omondi

FILE PHOTO: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks at a past function. /Photo courtesy: Yoweri Museveni – Twitter

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has tested negative for COVID-19 after developing a sore throat, one of the symptoms of the disease.

The 75-year-old made the announcement after his official nomination as the ruling party National Resistance Movement presidential flag bearer in the 2021 polls.

“I got a sore throat and rough voice. My first call was corona-19 (COVID-19). So I called the doctors early Sunday. They took the sample and by evening they came back and said no corona (virus),” said Museveni.

The president also took the opportunity to warn Ugandans against taking health protocols for granted, saying it risked causing a spike in deaths.

The East African country has reported 1,135 infections and two deaths, according to data from the ministry of health.

989 people have successfully recovered from the disease.

Uganda is scheduled to hold its general elections in February 2021, and Museveni will be seeking to extend his rule beyond 35 years.

Somalia secures $25 million grant to fight COVID-19

By CGTN Africa

FILE PHOTO – The headquarters of the African Development Bank (AfDB) are pictured in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo

The African Development Bank said on Monday it had approved grants worth about 25.1 million U.S. dollars to Somalia to shore up government efforts to mitigate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lender said the government will use the funds to carry out three interlinked responses to the pandemic that will enhance the health system, safeguard livelihoods and social protection, and support labor force productivity and economic activity.

The Horn of Africa nation has so far confirmed 3,178 COVID-19 cases, 1,521 recoveries and 93 deaths as of Sunday.

UN agencies and partners said they have scaled up their responses despite operational challenges due to COVID-19 containment measures such as most staff working remotely, in restricted environments, or from home.

Somalia has also experienced swarms of locusts over the past year that have increased food insecurity.