First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, says infertility is a huge issue for African women and cautioned society against stigmatising those facing such challenges as it amounts to gross injustice to them.
The lack of support for women with infertility in Africa aggravated the pain they went through, she said.
“Growing up, I saw how stigma and the lack of support traumatised women labelled as infertile. To me this was gross injustice.”
Mrs Akufo-Addo, therefore, called for a cultural shift that supports women, their partners and society with the necessary resources to fight infertility stigma and provide treatment or coping options for couples.
Speaking at the opening of the Nineth Edition of the Merck Foundation Africa Asia Luminary, being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, she said the support being provided by the Foundation to fight infertility and other medical conditions in Africa and elsewhere had been immense.
The two-day programme opened on Tuesday, on the theme: “Together We Make a Difference. “
It is being hosted in collaboration with the Organisation of African First Ladies and Development (OAFLAD) and being attended by the African first ladies, health professionals and providers, researchers, academics, and media among other stakeholders.
Mrs Akufo-Addo, who hosted the Luminary in Accra in 2019 before the outbreak of the COVID-19, described Ghana’s partnership with the Merck Foundation as productive.
She said the partnership had culminated in the training of more than 110 specialists as public sector healthcare providers, and greatly improved access and equitable quality health care solutions.
The Foundation works with the Office of the First Lady to inspire girl education under the “Educating Linda Programme” of which 20 needy but brilliant girls had received scholarships, with 3,000 sets of school supplies distributed to schools in Ghana.
Merck Foundation is also providing support to Rebecca Foundation’s “Because I want to Be” television mentorship programme with the aim of reducing school dropout rate of adolescent girls.
“It has been amazing to see these girls grow in confidence and self-esteem right before one’s eyes,” Mrs Akufo-Addo said.
“Building strong strategic partnerships is what Merck Foundation does best, and its collaboration with the media, musicians, fashion designers, film makers and students have ensured that they use their voices, platforms, talents and crafts to create awareness about social and health issues.”
So far, 100 Ghanaian journalists had received the Merck Foundation awards organised through the partnership as the highlight of the collaborations, she said.
Various artistes have been awarded, thereby contributing to the vibrancy of art and culture in Ghana.
Additionally, three inspiring children’s books have been launched while five new story books are being worked on to be launched later this year to help end child marriage, support girls’ education, stop gender-based violence and raise awareness on diabetes, Mrs Akufo-Addo said.
She commended Merck Foundation for its tremendous support to Ghana and assured of the country’s commitment to working with it to make a difference among the people.
Senator Dr Rasha Kelej, the Chief Executive Officer, Merck Foundation, said the Africa Asia Luminary has become a yearly educational conference, contributing to socio-economic development of the two continents.
Participants benefit from the sessions on diabetes, fertility, oncology, women health, cardiology, endocrinology, respiratory and acute medicine, among others.
The ninth edition coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Foundation, she said.
Dr Kelej urged the first ladies to educate the youth and children on healthy living by eating well and exercising regularly, avoid smoking and alcohol intake to prolong their lives.
Professor Dr Frank Stangenberg-Haverkamp, Founder of Merck Foundation, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, congratulated the more than 1,000 health professionals across Africa and Asia who are beneficiaries of Merck’s partnership offering capacity building in healthcare in over 50 countries.
The Namibian First Lady, Mrs Monica Geingos, the President of OAFLAD, among the other first ladies called for greater collaborations in addressing the needs of women and girls and healthcare challenges in Africa and Asia.